There’s a saying floating around that writers should ‘write what you know.’ Which is great and all, but only writing what you know isn’t going to fill the pages of a book with excitement and wonder, unless of course you are an intergalactic fighter pilot saving the world from invaders from Mars. (I apologize if you are indeed a space alien just doing their job). But on the off chance that you don’t battle aliens on your free time, writing what you know can get a bit dull.
I say, write the unknown. Write what scares you. Write what you wish you could do. Write your dreams. I say, let your imagination run wild to places no one else has ever been. Throw caution to the wind, and write the secret parts of you nobody else knows. Write the beatings of your heart and the essence of your soul.
Of course, ‘what you know’ has a part in all stories, or else readers might not connect. But the unknown is exhilarating and full of magic. It keeps the pages turning late at night when everyone else has gone to bed and it’s only one more chapter.
“Everyone tells you to write what you know. It’s the tried-and-true advice every writer hears at some point in their career. But to take my writing to a deeper level, I’ve found that a better practice is to simply write what frightens you, haunts you even. I’ve learned that tapping into the hard stuff — whether it’s the fear of loss or a boogeyman lurking in childhood memories — is what ultimately gives you a story the power to leap off the page and grap you by the collar.”
If writers only wrote what they knew, we wouldn’t have worlds of dragons, or magic, or a Gallifreyan Time Lord who seems particularly focused on saving Earth, and only sees the United Kingdoms when he visits. (Doctor Who is a show, but interesting nonetheless.)
So, tell me, what do you think of writing what you know vs. writing the unknown? Comment below.