You hear it all the time: Write What You Know.
If I did that literally I’d write books about writers (oh and so many do and I always groan), about a 40-something year old white girl from the south of England, maybe some science thrown in there. So no murder, lost children, other planets?
I think this terms is somewhat misunderstood. In a world where the answer to just about any questions, takes what less than a minute, a few minutes max to find, by the power of Google, then we can know just about anything and so perhaps the write what you know put simply just means make sure you learn it so you know it? And that is what we have research time for. We do have an obligation to truth even in fiction a I have talked about before although we are still allowed to make it all up! What fun!
I actually think writing what you know has a deeper meaning than that. I think it means connect to your reader and that means tapping into something universal. It’s what I teach the children in my animal writing workshops — imagine yourself into the role of something else, imagine you’re a lost animal, you’re hurt, sad, lonely, missing home. While behaviourists and zoologists still like to assume animals cannot possibly have the same emotions as us, we all know that this is ridiculous and of course they do! (And this is coming from someone with a Zoology degree and an Ecology Masters.) Look at your pets. And in much the same way this is why we cry at ET when he comes back to life and when he gets to go home. We tap into what we know and what we feel as humans and this is where I think write what you know comes into its own. And all you need to get that part right is not to travel into outer space in the name of research — good luck with that funding application — but to be human. Plain and simple.
And I think most of us know how to do that — don’t we?
Have a great day all!
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