We’ve all heard the famous phrase ‘Write What You Know.’ This is the first piece of advice we learn in most beginner writing classes. As our writing advances, and we become better writers, we’re told not to follow this advice anymore, and branch out and try something different with our writing. While I agree with both methods, I think writing what we know brings an indescribable personality to our writing and makes it stronger. Why can’t we write what we know, and still try something different? Why not take our life story, or the story of someone we know, and give it a unique voice we’ve never given our writing before?
I feel that writing is strongest when the writer creates a world they’re familiar with. Why delve into a WWII romance if you haven’t studied that time and place and don’t know anything about it? Why recreate Paris if you’ve never been? There’s no point because the piece will feel stilted and fake.
We’ve all been in writing workshops where an overly ambitious beginner has tried to create a world h/she knows nothing about. We’ve all watched as h/she has failed miserably and gotten criticized for a piece that just doesn’t feel right. This kind of writing rarely works. So, if I may offer some advice, please do write what you know, despite what you’re told later in your writing career, but don’t take the easy way out. Take what you know, and make it unique. Try a different way of storytelling you’ve never tried before. Use a narrative voice you otherwise wouldn’t. Write what you know, but still be creative.
You might be surprised at the results.
The Accidental Blogger