Write for You: What You Don’t Know

by Nancy Casey

We all know lots of things. And we don’t know a whole lot more.

We don’t know the things we haven’t figured out yet. There are things we don’t know that we could know if we looked them up, or asked someone. There are things we used to know but forgot. Not to mention all the gazillions of things that nobody will ever know.

If you compare the things you know to the things you don’t know, what would that be like? A speck of dust in the ocean? A blade of grass on the lawn? Frosting on the cake?

It’s tempting to think that we should be smarter, or that we should “know better.” But if we knew everything, there would be nothing to learn. Would that make life boring? How much fun is it to hang out with someone who thinks they know everything?

Today in your writing, celebrate what you don’t know. Here’s how:

  • Begin with something you know. Things you know are everywhere. You observe them. You remember them. Starting with the words, “I know…” write one of them down. Don’t think about it very hard. Just write something.
  • Follow that with the phrase, “but I don’t know…”
  • Then finish off the sentence. If the first part and the second part don’t seem very related to one another, that doesn’t matter. Just as long as the first part is something you know and the second part is something you don’t.
  • Start a new line and do the same thing, beginning again with something you know and adding something you don’t know.
  • Fill up a page that way.

If you feel a little bit stuck and not sure what to write after the word “know,” notice how a little word often follows the word “know” when we talk. Know if… Know how… Know who… Know when… Know where… Know what… Know that… Know why…

If you are unsure about what to write, add one of those little words, and that will usually help you think up what to put next.

When you have filled up the page, go back and focus on things you don’t know. If there are things you wish you knew, draw a big question mark over them. If there are things you are glad you don’t know, draw a smiley face on them. Draw an exclamation point on top of the things that are impossible to know. Do some things get more than one mark? Do others get no mark at all?

If you want to draw other things on the page, do that, too.

When you have finished, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, as well. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information

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