I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘write what you know.’ I’ve read this phrase in nonfiction writing guides, I’ve seen it on multiple blogs, and I was given the tip by an author I conversed with a few years ago.
But what does it mean?
Once I fully understood the concept, I was able to write much richer stories both with my language and ideas.
‘Write what you know’ can mean many things. It doesn’t just mean to write about hobbies/careers/tasks you’re familiar with, although these are definitely good things to write about. It generally refers to experiences and your lifestyle. I recently learned that it applies to feelings, as well.
No, I don’t mean simple emotions like happiness and sadness. I mean deeper, more complex feelings. Not only will this give your characters depth and draw your readers closer to them, but it can be a sense of relief to describe how you feel.
Here’s how this helped me.
The past few weeks, I’ve found it hard to write. I felt like I’d lost my mojo, and I was starting to wonder if I didn’t have anything important to say. I wondered if it was pointless to put so much work into getting back into writing. I wondered if maybe it would be easier to quit.
But I’m not a quitter. I suddenly realized that all of the emotions that have been bottled up inside of me recently- the stress of a busy schedule, the lack of exciting events in my life (writing was my happy place, and without it I felt useless), the loneliness (I have very few friends in the real world), the apprehension of my upcoming surgery- would be a great thing to write about. I started wondering about creating a character that was fueled by the longing to escape the real world, as I often am. I knew I wanted to make a fantasy, but I wasn’t sure about a plot.
Earlier this month, I came up with a plot that I’d like to think is completely brilliant, but I wasn’t sure how to start the story. I didn’t know how to make my main character get into the situation I needed to get the ball rolling, and this frustrated me. So I just left the idea alone.
Suddenly, with one graceful sweep of thoughts, these two things clicked into place together.
Of course, I realized with excitement, and so was the birth of the perfect solution to my YA fantasy/romance, ‘Raven Fields.’
Write what you know. It could be about things you’re good at and therefore are qualified to write well, it could be about real life experiences and everyday events, or your emotions. Whatever it is, write it. Because then it’s coming from you, which is where authors should get most of their inspiration, I think.