As an aspiring writer, I've heard over and over, "Write what you know." Now, I'm hearing, "Write what you don't know." Which leaves me unclear on what to write.
Only writing what you know works great if you are writing an autobiography or non-ficition. But what about science fiction or fantasy? How would we have ever met the wonderful Aslan if C.S. Lewis had to find a talking Lion before he could write about one? Or if J.R.R. Tolkien had to experience the corruption of a Stoor Hobbit before he penned the evil Gollum?
American Author Nathan Englander, says that "Write what you know" is one of the best, and most misunderstood, pieces of advice ever. The concept of writing what you know paralyzes aspiring authors into thinking that authenticity in fiction is a thinly veiled autobiography. Writing what you know is perfect if you grew up fast, on the hard streets of New York, and you want to write about survival. But what if you grew up on the beaches of Southern California? Are you supposed to only write about the perfect way to catch a wave?
According to Englander, "Write what you know” isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss? Have you ever wanted something so bad you might have killed for it? If that is the case, it doesn't matter whether your story takes place in Narnia or the Valley of Anduin, – if you’re writing what you know, your words come alive.
Muse For Today: How do you tap into "what you know" to write?