As a fiction author, mostly what I do is write beyond what I know. There isn’t enough raw material in my life to sustain decent plots for long. I pay a lot of attention to other people, but even so, mostly I make stuff up and hope it seems plausible. For fiction, this is plenty good enough and ‘plausible’ will do, but with the Druid hat on, the issues of being outside personal experience are much more complex.
There is one heck of a lot I do not know. I’m very conscious that every place, country, landscape, eco system is unique, and what works for one may be a bit loopy and unhelpful in another. I’m conscious of diversity of life experience, too. There are things that, as a seeing Pagan, I write about visually, that are going to be a tad unhelpful for a Pagan who cannot see (and thank you Eilis for making me more sensitive to this). What I think I know can be a long way from the whole story
My understanding as a woman who is a parent and who knows her ancestral line became an issue during Druidry and the Ancestors. What could I usefully say to those who are by choice or fate, childless? What could I say to those who have been adopted, or have no knowledge of birth family, or are estranged from relatives? And what right did I have to speak, in my ignorance, to that experience? I started asking, and people were generous with their stories. I listened, and I came out a bit the wiser and very clear that I have no right or authority to tell someone with a totally different experience set how to go about relating to the issue of ancestry. I can offer ideas and suggestions, but my limited insight is an issue I need to be alert to.
We each walk our own path, in a unique place, and with a unique history behind us. We have common ground in our humanity, which can bring us together, but we are all individual. We can share, and learn from the sharing. Maybe sometimes what that leads to is the realisation that no, you wouldn’t do it that way – which has to be fine. Your life, your path, and therefore your authority. I can use my imagination and empathy to offer advice to people, but it would be arrogant indeed to imagine that I know best.
I’m excited by the enormity of all that I do not know. I love hearing other people’s stories and experiences. This helps me be alert to the limits of my understanding – not that I always get it right of course, but it helps to be looking! When we tell each other what to do, we are only speaking from personal experience, and that isn’t universal. This is why it’s so important to avoid getting bogged down in dogma and authority in the first place