What do you know about ignorance?

“Don't know much about history.
“Don't know much biology.
“Don't know much about a science book.
“Don't know much about the French I took.”

Okay, I get this litany of how ignorant the singer is contrasts with the fact that s/he “loves you,” and how reciprocation of such would engender a wonderful world. But singable though it is, the conceit behind it has always annoyed me. What we don't know is perfectly acceptable as long as we have a warm, fuzzy emotion to go along with that lack of knowledge.

I'm not really sure where or when the inherent anti-intellectualism in our society originated (sure, I could google it, but if you know, post a comment). I nearly entitled this post, “Ignorance is piss.” Why is ignorance a positive trait?

In this age of instant access (which I alluded to in the previous sentence, in fact), ignorance is inexcusable. Writers in particular need to combat ignorance. It's what we do, right? Create knowledge and/or information where none existed before? Knit up diverse strands of data into a coherent whole? (Hello? Is this thing on?)

(I feel quite curmudgeonly as I type this. I must've pushed one of my own buttons.) I'm frequently annoyed by writers who protest, “Oh, I just don't know how to use Twitter.” Why not? Find out! I can think of at least three e-books off the top of my head that explain in detail what Twitter is and how an author can use it in marketing her books. Can't afford the e-books? Ask! Independent author sites abound, with lots of free help available. Saying “I don't know” without proceeding to remedy the situation is just plain lazy.

The world is such an amazing place, full of intriguing and insane and annoying and wretched and intense and blissful and spiritual and stupid people. To my mind, writers fight ignorance with every paragraph, every sentence, every word, filling in the vast emptiness of ignorance with glittering webs of information, with new discoveries, with new ways of looking at existence. The creative writer enlivens dry facts, giving birth to brand new life. One of my greatest joys in reading is not necessarily the words on the page or the pixels on the Kindle, but the ideas for my own writing that spin off in little creative whorls. Usually these ideas have nothing to do with the words on the page. Something just clicks. Because the writer took the time to write.

Writers, don't be lazy. Before you type the words “I don't know” on Facebook or complain to someone about your ignorance, stop. Remedy that lack, fill in that lacuna, google it, and instead, share the knowledge with the rest of us.

You're lifting up the entire human race when you do.

Drop a comment below and let me know what you think of the subject.


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!!

  2. I was never a fan of ignorance–I want to know everything–but there sure is a lot of everything out there to know. I suspect that the value of ignorance is that it absolves you of responsibility, but responsibility=power and nobody wants to give up power. Right? Great post.

  3. Excellent post. This makes me want to put a sticker on my drive-thru window reading as follows: “Don’t know? Don’t guess! And please don’t assume or bicker. Google it! Disclaimer: this is not endorsed, supported, or owned by Google.”

  4. Janica Carter says

    This applies to so much more than just writing. My (very small) social group is better educated than I am. I’ve finally learned to admit my ignorance on subjects that sometimes arise and to ask questions rather than sit in confused silence. They don’t laugh at me; they share their knowledge with me. (Ok, I do sometimes get that look of disbelief that I don’t know something, but still, they fill me in.) On occasion, I have the opportunity to educate them. We all know so many different things, and sharing them enriches all of us. You never know when two bits of information might link up and spark a fabulous new concept!

    • Oh, that is so true! Thanks for posting, Janica. I always learn cool stuff from you. And educating each other is such an important part of life and friendship.

  5. Amen, Donna! You are so correct in this blog. It pushed all my buttons, as well, even though I’m still just a beginner. There is a plethora of resources in this day & age to assist people in learning new things & finding the answers to their questions. Sure, one has to always be careful on the internet & consider the source of the information, but that’s not an excuse for not at least trying to figure something out rather than shrugging one’s shoulders & walking away. Not only are there books or websites to learn from but, unless I’m some kind of rare oddity, I’ve discovered there are plenty of kind people out there in the blogosphere & Twitterverse willing to help you if you simply have the intelligence &, heaven forbid, the humility to JUST ASK for or admit you need a little help now & then. Jeesh!

    Maybe it’s from my years of having worked in the veterinary & then human medical field, but I learned early on that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying/admitting “I don’t know” as long as it’s immediately followed by “but I’m going to look into it for you & get right back to you”. Particularly in those fields, there’s nothing worse or potentially dangerous than the person who pretends to know all the answers rather than admitting they need a moment to learn something new for themselves while, at the same time, properly answering the question of the inquiring patient/client. That know-it-all mentality, at least in those fields, can be life-threatening.

    Of course, one is not going to stop in the midst of a conversation with a group of friends at a party or the like to Google something those around them are talking about–they’re going to, hopefully, ask their friends. That’s different.

    I’m only 5 months into my brand new blogging/writing journey. There are definitely times when I’ve searched the web, looked through a book, or found the instructions on a website may as well have been written in some archaic alien language that I’m certain no one but the Sphinx understands the riddle of. Okay. So? Guess what? It’s highly likely a person has friends that know them well enough to teach whatever the subject is to them in such a way that they’ll better understand rather than just throwing up their hands with the laziness of an “I don’t know” that isn’t followed with “…but I’m going to check that out & come back to it”. Heaven knows I’m certainly not perfect & there have been a few situations when all I needed was someone to reword or clarify one silly little phrase into ‘Cari-speak’ while learning something new & then all the rest of the pieces suddenly clicked into place.

    The only shame in saying “I don’t know” lies in, as you said, not even attempting to look into the subject further yourself in order to learn & grow as a person. I try to figure things out myself first (well isn’t Google just a miracle? <—insert snarky voice here), then & only then, if what I’ve found hasn’t answered my question conclusively–or that riddling Sphinx seems to have written it–will I begin asking my friends. Why do I wait to ask a friend? Well, it’s due to a pet peeve of mine & I choose to try my best not to be a hypocrite. While I’m generally happy to help people out, there are few things more irritating, in my opinion, than a phone call while I’m in the midst of something else–especially in the late hours of the evening during family time or quiet time for me to read or write–asking me a question only to find out that person, who does have internet access, hasn’t even attempted looking up the answer for themselves. Or, worse yet, when they actually sit there on the phone with me prattling on while I look it up for them. The whole mentality of “it’s just easier to call so-and-so” gets stale & irksome at a speed even a cheetah would envy.

    Kudos to you, Donna, for writing this blog. I hope there are many out there who read it & learn to turn their “I don’t know” into “I’m going to look into that further”.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Cari, and for your very thoughtful post. I’ve been surprised and gratified at the response to this post. You’re so right about people who don’t even attempt to find out for themselves. I’ve found myself guilty of that at times at work when faced with a web problem–I’m tempted to ask my co-worker, who’s such a CSS guru. But I make myself at least attempt to find an answer–and when I do, it means all the more to me, and I remember it better next time. I especially like your last sentence.

      • You’re very welcome, Donna, & it’s such a pleasure to ‘meet’ you. I’m very glad you’ve received such a great response to this post not only because it deserves such a response but because, whether people like hearing it or not, it’s the truth & it needs to be said. The day we stop trying to learn for ourselves & from one another is the day our minds stagnate & die, in my opinion. I’m not quite ready to stagnate or die just yet. I liked your alternate snarkasm title for this, as well. Ignorance Is Piss. That had me rolling. 😉

        I believe we’re all guilty of doing the simple thing & turning to someone else before researching for ourselves from time to time, Donna, myself included. None of us are perfect, of course. If anyone here reading this is, in fact, perfect, please do let us know because that would be a truly amazing discovery. We all know what we’re capable of & realize there are just some days when a person knows for a fact they wouldn’t be able to decipher the Sphinx’s riddles even if they did Google it themselves. Those are the days when it’s definitely okay, as well as a wiser use of your time, to turn to your friend or co-worker & politely ask for some help when they get a chance–not “drop everything you’re doing right this minute because I must have the answer”. It’s when it becomes a habit, demand, or a ‘crutch’ that, to me, it’s become an issue of laziness.

        I was telling my significant other about your post & he did gently remind me of the times when, because of my veterinary/medical background, I have fretted myself into anxiety about ‘minor’ procedures or test results for our critterkids that folks without that background wouldn’t likely be fretting over. He told me that those are the times he wished, for my own well-being, that I didn’t know the things I know or have seen the things I’ve seen–in other words, on some occasions like those, ignorance would be bliss. To that point, I had to concede. He is correct about that.

        Otherwise, learn all that you can in this gift called life. Be curious just for curiosity’s sake. Experience new things simply for the sake of experience. Be a sponge & soak up all the information that you can. Be enlightened by the points of view of others around you & then share what you’ve learned. Most of all, never be afraid to admit you learned something new even if that newly acquired knowledge means admitting you have been wrong about the subject in the past. The biggest ignorance of all is the inability to genuinely apologize.

  6. A well written post Donna. I love your way of thinking and you have also given me a new word to use as well 🙂 ‘Curmudgeonly’ – Brilliant!

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