Wisdom, Knowledge and Tomatoes

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing but they are interlinked, and we need them both.

So what about tomatoes?

I’m using the tomatoes to demonstrate the difference between wisdom and knowledge and why we need both of these.

Here goes: tomatoes are a fruit – that’s knowledge. However, wisdom is not putting them in a fruit salad.

Now how on earth does that apply to writing? Well, if you’re writing a recipe book, you need to combine this particular knowledge with this specific wisdom in your quest for recipes which will appeal to your hungry readers.

So if your goal is a pure and simple presentation of meal ideas, then it’s not really necessary for you to read further.

But for any other form of writing, it is. Think about an autobiography. You will have perfect knowledge of the subject – you – but the wisdom comes in the presentation of your life in all its doings in a manner that will engage your reader.

Knowledge can stride boldly ahead, proudly bearing the banner that’s your history, immortalised forever in the written word.

Wisdom, however, must be in close attendance. It’s wisdom’s job to discreetly curb knowledge’s enthusiasm, cutting out the bits which would seem boring to any except perhaps your mother. Details such as your age when you lost your first milk tooth, or the particular hair conditioner you preferred as a teenager.

But wisdom isn’t finished yet. Wisdom then has to darn all the holes thus left in the banner of your life, leaving a smooth and seam-free experience for the reader to enjoy.

Fiction is more obvious. Think of an aboriginal wearing a digital watch. Or would you have the male romantic lead in a medieval romance wearing a baseball cap?

I’m not exclusively talking film here; if it’s essential for your aboriginal to know the time then be sure to let your reader know that he has looked at the sun, not his watch! *

And when your medieval hero sweeps off his hat, make sure the reader is able to visualise not just the sweeping, but the style of hat that is being swept.

Knowledge is essential to make your story believable. It can take a lot of time spent researching on knowledge’s behalf!

However, researching can throw up so much knowledge that wisdom has to step in and distil that knowledge into manageable and relevant chunks.

Wisdom and knowledge are to me like strawberries and raspberries. I can never make up my mind which I prefer, so I help myself to both!

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing, but they are interlinked.

And I’ll have some cream with those strawberries and raspberries, please.

*Except David Gulpilil, AKA David Dalaithngu, Crocodile Dundee’s Aboriginal friend, who does wear a watch!


  1. Gail

    Thanks for this – first laugh of the morning – tomatoes in a fruit salad! But obviously much more in this piece, too!

  2. Oh yes! I began by wondering if Miriam, writing a memoir, would find this piece helpful, and ended up thinking about writing a story set in the Neolithic, and the number of times in that brief six weeks in which I wrote the whole book, I came up against the problem of measuring time passing. It made me reflect on how time using clocks and watches is so central to modern life.
    Just imagine scheduling our zoom meetings without the benefit of time-keepers! It’s complex enough with time zones, but the synchronizing of time is something that only came in with the advent of rail travel, as no doubt Rachel will be aware.
    Just to add to your thought Jos, I was once given a salad with the tomatoes liberally sprinkled with white sugar! Tomatoes with sugar made me gag, despite, or perhaps because of, their natural sweetness.

  3. Great post, Jos! I immediately thought of Nigel or Nevil (whatever) in Crocodile Dundee when you mentioned an Aboriginal wearing a watch. Such anomalies lead to amazing comic moments.

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