Every time someone tells me, “write what you know,” I have the inappropriate urge to slap them.
Don’t follow my example. Write what you know is good advice. Actually, it’s great advice. Also, you probably shouldn’t go around slapping people and telling them I encouraged you to do it.
Write what you know = write what you’ve experienced. Fear, jealousy, trauma, loss. Write what you know. Write what you feel.
The reason the term irks me is because people tend to use it incorrectly. Someone asked me a few months back what my current novel was about. I mumbled a broken explanation (or something like one, I’m terrible at explaining my plots verbally), but I’m pretty sure she got the gist of it – that it’s about a post-apocalyptic circus. She blinked at me and said, “Ooooh, but you’ve never worked in the circus!” Yeah, and I’ve never experienced an apocalypse, either.
Now that I think back on it, I should have spun some grandiose story about my former circus days, but in the moment I wasn’t so clever. I confirmed her suspicions, and then she shrugged, told me I should “write what I know,” and sauntered off.
I was honestly quite stunned for a moment, but then I shrugged it off and moved on with my day (okay, maybe there was a little more rage, but I kept it to myself).
It did get me thinking, though. With the sometimes blatant misuse of the term, why not coin a NEW term?
Write what you DON’T know!
Besides, what fun is it to stay stagnant in your writing?
Why not write about a political diplomat who gets involved in extreme origami competitions? Even if you know nothing about politics or (extreme) origami! Research is the spice of life.
I know so many random things that I never would have cared about before I had the need to research them for a story. This also leads to me having an extremely interesting Google search history… which we just won’t talk about.
Writing is about discovery. Writing is about freedom. Writing is reaching. Writing is creating something bigger than yourself, so why should you think small?
Discover. Dream. REACH!
Write what you know AND what you don’t know!
The sky’s the limit.