Writing What You Know

calvin-and-hobbes-write-what-you-knowPeople say that a writer should write what they know. I disagree. I think if you only write what you know then you will very quickly run out of the things to write about. I think you would have to have something brand new and incredibly exciting happen to you every day in order to only ever write what you know. That’s why, instead of doing this, I think it is far more important for a writer to step out of their comfort zone and write about something they know nothing about.

Imagine a writer who only writers what he/she knows. I believe that would go something like this: “I awoke Sunday morning feeling tired and lazy as I do every Sunday. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I knew I had to. I had very important things that had to be done today. Things that could not be put off no matter what. I got out of bed wearily and went to the bathroom. Brushing my teeth and getting dressed, I now felt prepared for the day ahead. I looked at the clock and knew it was time. I had to go grocery shopping.” How exciting was that? How would you like to that 500 page novel? Sure, you could turn it into something exciting like they were on their way to the grocery store when they robots suddenly came down from the sky and started reigning terror. But wait, have you actually lived through that? No? Then you can’t know much about it and therefore can’t write about it. But the robots probably sound a lot more exciting than reading someone’s grocery list, doesn’t it?

That is why I feel it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and write something you know nothing about. One of the main subjects of the novel I’m working on now is war. I’ve never experienced war first hand and when I first started the only things I knew about it were what I had seen on the news and learned about around Remembrance Day. This meant I had to do a lot of research so that I would actually know what I was writing about. I could create the plot and the characters, but I couldn’t make up the way war works. I think this is one of the best reasons to write something you know nothing about. You are forced to do research which means not only do you create a story that will hopefully make your readers think, but you yourself will also be forced to think.

Another piece I have in the works involves mermaids. Now, I have obviously never encountered a mermaid so how could I write about them? Well, there is a lot of information about them from books, tv, and movies. But you know the best part? Since mermaids are made up, anything in your writing about them can also be made up. Anything that is fantasy can be made up which obviously means you don’t need to have experienced it to write about it.

War, falling in love, road tripping, and mermaids. These are the main subjects of several things I am writing. I have never experienced war, I have never fallen in love, I have never been on a road trip, and I have never met a mermaid. Despite this, these are the things I write about. These are the things that fill my mind and intrigue me. These are the things that I spend hours upon hours researching and fiddling around with so as to understand them better even if I have never experienced them. As a writer I feel it is important to get out of my comfort zone. I can’t always write about what I had for breakfast, I need to write about the mysterious stranger that suddenly showed up at my door; or that my fridge came to life and is now trying to eat me.

Don’t stick to what you know. Delve deeper into the world and explore new things. If you don’t then you will one day find yourself stuck in a writing rut in which the creativity is slowly leaving you. Don’t let happen. Don’t try to make going to the grocery store be more exciting than the robots. Embrace the robots (figuratively of course, if giant robots are coming at you I would advise you to run). Don’t just write something you know and that your readers can relate to. Write something that excites you and that your readers wish they could relate to. Write something that makes you want to keep writing.

What do you think?

Do you think you should write what you know or step out of your comfort zone?

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10 thoughts on “Writing What You Know

  1. I think perhaps as a starting point, write what you know. And the trick is, write what you know, without exaggerating, but making it interesting! Then, once that can be done… write about anything you want!

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    • Once I get into the flow of things when I’m writing I can usually do that too. 🙂 A lot of the research I do (at least this time around) has come during the editing and rewriting when I went back and read everything though and realizer I really had no clue what I was talking about at some points 🙂

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