How many times have you heard someone say, "Write what you know?" Have you ever thought about that? Seriously, I mean. Have you ever thought about how much you know...as opposed to how much you don't know?
I had the very great pleasure this past week to visit...in person...with a dear friend, an Internet friend, with whom I've been writing to and responding to for about 2 years, but had never met. In listening to her talk about all the things she has going on, in terms of articles and stories, I realized that her depth of knowledge about certain things supercedes mine. We are both educated women, I may have one more degree than she does, but that has nothing to do with either of our independent intellectual growth. So following the adage "write what you know" means that there are a LOT of things I couldn't write about, but she could. Not that we are in any kind of competition, so don't misunderstand me. It's just that in certain areas, my ability to write what I know doesn't count for much, while hers does.
Writing what you know means that you are in control of your writing knowledge and ability. It means that you can take a familiar subject and inject it with your own unique sense of humor, your own feelings and sensitivity, your own individuality. You can organize your thoughts in such a way as to bring passion, humanity, tenderness, and originality to a story or a factual event that, in most cases, appears to be commonplace.
So what does it mean to write about what you don't know? It means to expand your horizons when you sit down to write. It doesn't have to mean a lot of mindboggling research. Instead, think "outside of the box." Let your imagination run wild. After all, that's why we have imaginations, isn't it? To allow ourselves to explore a realm of possibilities where we may never have delved before? Let's say you take your 4 year old to the neighborhood park. You see a woman about your age sitting on a bench. None of the children playing appear to belong to her. Her face is sad. You wonder why she is here, and where she came from, as you've never seen her before. Doesn't that open up a world of questions in your mind? You approach her with a quiet "hello," but she gets up and you see a moment of panic on her face before she runs away from you. Now your curiosity is aroused. Don't let it fall by the wayside. This is not something or someone you "know," but it is a wonderful opportunity to explore the wild, the different, the mysterious, the unique situation of a stranger.
Don't settle for writing only what you know: the familiar, the safe, the "everything is under control" bit. Be curious about what is going on around you that you may never have seen or heard or experienced before. Let your imagination have free rein, and don't keep it forever "in its place" as part of your life control. Let it out, let it romp and run free, let it get crazy and wild, let it open your heart and your mind to what is new and different, maybe a bit scary, but surely no longer safe and under control. Then let your writing reflect the spontaneity your imagination has unleashed. You might be amazed at what you can do!
Let me know what you think.
That's a wrap.