Write What You Know?

I completely forgot to post the results from this poll when I said I would. *sheepish smile* Oops.

*clears throat* Anyway, the result was mainly ‘nay.’ Which doesn’t really surprise me. I also went around asking a few people what they thought of it and here are their answers plus a comment from the poll post, in either full or part:

“I think it’s useful in the sense of “write what you’ve researched.”” – Kellyn

“I personally think it’s kind of silly advice. Isn’t the point of writing being able to experience and explore things different from our own lives? Yes, pulling from situations and circumstances we know can be a beautiful and powerful thing, but if that’s ALL we do we really limit ourselves…The true joy of writing is exploring so many situations and people we may otherwise never be able to.” – Christine

“I think it’s the most boring advice ever because it strips imagination and creativity out of the process…While there are some things you do need to understand how they work before you write it, that’s what good solid research is for, or interviewing others experienced in the subject matter.” – Michaela

“My opinion on it is that if taken to mean write only about things you know well, it’s very constricting and creativity-killing but “safe” writing advice. You’re not going to make huge mistakes, since you’re already very familiar with the subject. You’re also not stretching yourself or allowing your imagination to wander down unexplored lanes…But if meant in the sense of personal emotional/spiritual experience, it’s some of the best writing advice out there. You can write about the most fantastical of things few have ever experienced IRL, but still be writing “what you know” because you’re drawing on emotions you’ve felt – hurt, pain, betrayal, joy, etc. You can take lessons you’ve learned and watch your characters learn the same things, which makes it even more authentic.” – Saraina

Now, as to my own thoughts? I don’t like that advice. Something about it rubs me the wrong way, like it’s telling me I should limit myself. It sounds like it’s telling me to take the easy way, to ignore the siren call of books begging to be read so that I can be knowledgeable about things I haven’t experienced, about times I haven’t lived in.

It tells me not to do my research. It tells me not to seek out knowledge. It tells me to stay in my little 21st century Gen Z bubble and never time travel to the Civil War or the Roaring Twenties or to the Protestant Reformation. It tells me not to learn. It’s discouraging.

If you happen to like this advice, that’s your opinion; it’s not a command to impose on other writers yet somehow that’s how it always comes across to me each time I see it.

So I won’t listen to it. I will continue to write stories about things I might not or definitely won’t experience, simply because of the emotional aspect tied to it.

I can write about a married couple in 1st century Rome being sold into slavery and separated because of the pain and sorrow that comes with it. I can write about two brothers protecting each other in the Civil War because of the close bond between them (plus I have brothers myself so that always helps 😆). I can write about a woman helping her veteran husband cope with PTSD because of the love and care she has for him.

You can write about that nurse in WWII tending to the wounded because of empathy. You can write about that mime cheering people up because of laughter. You can write about that ballerina not getting the part because of disappointment and of learning to be content when things don’t go your way.

We can write those stories because God has given us a gift! We can write those stories because deep down, there’s something He’s placed on our hearts to say and writing is how He is leading us to say it!

Fellow writers, write what you don’t know.

So, what’re your thoughts on this subject?

3 thoughts on “Write What You Know?

  1. Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the advice, but I completely understand your point. I think it has to do with your perspective on the advice. Like, I take it as more of “write what you know” as in “draw from personal experiences.” So like, for example, in my current WIP (which is a YA contemporary, so of course it’s closer to reality than most of my projects), I’m taking some of my own experiences and fictionalizing them. I have dogs, so I also want one of my characters to have a dog. I don’t interpret the advice to mean that you can only write things that you personally have experienced.
    Anyway, that’s just my little thought on the matter. I agree with what you said for the most part, I just think we interpret the advice a little differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AMEN, girl!! I couldn’t have said it any better. You’re so right, writing what we don’t know encourages us (dare I say, *forces* us 😂) to research and learn and explore and experiment!

    Thank you for sharing this post! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

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