Writing What You Know, and Writing What You Don’t

There are many so-called “rules” in writing, or at least, there are things you should be aware of. One of these things is the saying, “Write what you know”. Like a lot of sayings, it’s the meaning you gather from it that matters.

There are two main extreme ends of the spectrum in terms of how to look at writing: writing what you know, and writing what you don’t.

Let’s examine these.

Literally, writing what you know means using only the knowledge that you’ve learned and the experiences you’ve lived.

But, if you step back and think about this for a moment, it can mean more than that.

You know how it feels to be sad, or to feel excited. You know what it’s like to see a friend or family member after a long time (whether it be a positive or negative). You know what it feels like to be in the middle of an awkward silence, or the pressure you feel when a secret has been put into your possession.

These are things you know, and you can write about them. But change the setting, change the faces, change the conversation, and it starts to become a story, not your story, but a story composed of things you know.

Then, there is looking at writing through the lens of writing what you don’t know.

Literally, writing what you don’t know means using only your imagination and not using facts and just making up things that make sense to you and you cross your fingers and hope it makes sense to someone other than yourself.

In reality, this means creating wonderful worlds that aren’t your own, or are very similar or different from our world, and doing research to make sure they seem as real to the reader as it is to you.

Whether you know everything or nothing, make sure to let the reader know they should care about your stories.

Mary Wright

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