I always hear “you should write what you know”, but what does that truly mean?
I know lots of things. I know the lyrics the 95% of *NSYNC‘s songs. I know how to crochet. I know how to drive a car. I know how to get the guys at works to wash my dishes for me. I know how to dance. I know how to feed a baby. I know death. I know love.
Telling a person to write what they know is too broad. The are so many things that I know of, or how to do. Many times people say write what you know referring to what you’re familiar with.
If you’re familiar with ghost stories, write about ghost stories. If you’re familiar with local history, write about local history. If you’re familiar with love, write about love.
I wouldn’t feel challenged as a writer if I only wrote about what I know. Meghan wrote a great post recently about how when you write, you should make yourself an expert in that subject. If you want to write an amusing story about Thor, the god of thunder, but know nothing about Norse mythology, look it up. The internet is a valuable resource. There is so much free information available to everyone.
I think part of being a writer is pushing yourself into unchartered territories. Don’t just stick to what you know. Write what you want to know about. I wanted to add in some subtle religious details in my novel, so I’ve spent hours looking through books and browsing the internet to make sure what I was putting in there made sense. I wrote a short story about a man buying a pet bird, so I looked up exotic birds at pet shops.
Writing is about expanding your mind, and taking your readers to a new place, a place that you’ve either created or expanded upon. It’s not about just sticking to what you know. It’s about writing what you want to know.
Until next time,