“Write what you know.” Has been spoken among writers for far too long, I don’t know who said it first, where it came from or how it began, nor do I remember ever being told this quote. It’s just one of those things you seem to know.
What I do know and remember, is sitting down at age 12, quickly scribbling away in an old notebook the very beginnings of my work in progress and this quote continually was running through my mind.
To the best of my understanding of this quote, it is talking about writing from experiences and drawing from your personal account of emotions, memories, thoughts on events, etc.
At age twelve I didn’t necessarily have the experience to write a book.
Not only had I never written anything quite as difficult as a novel, but I didn’t have the set of skillful emotions to write about what I knew.
So I soon adapted a new definition to this quote.
Maybe it wasn’t talking about what I knew in the sense of what I had learned in my life and from experience, but maybe, just maybe…it meant what write what you know about your story.
And that, I knew quite a bit about.
I was aware of my character’s strengths and weaknesses, what made them breathe and bleed. I knew perfectly well what they loved and hated. What they were willing to live for and far more importantly die for. I knew how I wanted the story to go, how I wanted it to feel and what I wanted my readers to know.
So I wrote that.
In the course of writing and re-writing and re-writing…I eventually formed new story plots to intertwine throughout the story. Even though I didn’t know those details a few years ago, I know that I wouldn’t know them now unless I had written what I knew then.
You cannot see what’s in the next room without first opening the door. But sometimes one only has the key, or simply a window to look through…so if that is the only understanding you have of your book right now, write that. Everything you write now, will help your writing later, and every step gets your story where it needs to be, and every moment helps you grow as a writer.
Write what you know, don’t get caught up in what you can’t figure out about your story.
The puzzle pieces will fall into place the more you work on it.
I would say you cannot get to point C without first writing points A and B…
but in writing, sometimes you will know point B, eventually C, then finally A.
So if at first all you know is point E…write that.
There’s no set limit on how much or how little life experiences you need to know in order to qualify as being a writer. And there’s certainly no amount of inspiration small enough that it can’t start a lovely idea from blooming.
You might be doubting your abilities, or maybe you feel you don’t know enough about your story…but you know more than you think. Trust me.