Write what you KNOW? Write what you DON’T know

or…?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the adage ‘Write what you know’. It seems that’s the popular sentiment when it comes to writing advice.

Although this is not the only advice that is given to us writers about what to write about.

There is:

  1. Write what you know — then there is
  2. Write what you don’t know — Then others say
  3. Don’t write what you know. Write what you love. — and others who tout:
  4. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. But most of all write what you’d rather not know’.

Ok, so we have many choices as writers.

I’ll start with the ever popular Write What You Know.

1. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.

Ok, as an example; to me the subject of ‘Creativity and Madness’ is one of my current interests.

This is a topic I do know a lot about. I may even be a bit of an expert on it. (Ha).

I’ve definitely gone mad many times in my life and I have also been a creative person all my life

I’ve had two nervous breakdown/breakthroughs in my 55 years and I have had at least three creative callings. Made a living as a musician and a visual artist. Now I am into writing.

So,

THIS is a subject I KNOW .

I do like writing what I know because somehow it feels safe and I feel at ‘home’.

2.WRITE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

Jessica Handler, author of “Between the Lines’ seems to be an advocate for writing what we don’t know saying:

‘I’m not sure who started encouraging writers to “write about what you know”.

At first glance it seems to make sense. Why not write about what I know when I know so much? When I’ve done so much? When I’ve seen so much?

The obvious question is how do I know what I don’t know?

The answer is that I don’t.

I just write into unfamiliar territory and see what happens because I know that’s where the answers lie. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes I get sidetracked. If I’m lucky I find my way.

But the journey, yes the journey, is always worth it.’

Writing what we don’t know is a great way to learn about a subject. I love researching subjects I am unfamiliar with. To me is fun and a wonderful way to stretch myself.

3. ‘DONT WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.’

This one makes sense total sense to me. I mean of course we want to write what we LOVE! Id be writing about my cats all the damn time though!

I think we are apt to finish and even begin a project more if we love it.

Love the story.

Love the theme.

Love the message.

Love the purpose.

DUH! That’s a no brainer.

For instance I have no interest in plumbing or sumo wrestling. I would not want to write those themes, unless its of course it’s an interesting human interest piece about a crazy plumber who has sex with his plunger or a sumo wrestler who quilts baby booties on his spare time.

I much prefer writing on subjects I love.

4. ‘WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. WRITE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. BUT MOST OF ALL WRITE WHAT YOU’D RATHER NOT KNOW.’

This point of view is from writer A.J. Jacobs.

He said ‘I’m not a fan of write what you know…

‘If you don’t know, find out. I knew nothing about the Bible before I started writing ‘The year of Living Biblically’. That was kind of the point — to learn’

So for most of us writers I think the best advice is to:

‘Just ‘KEEP WRITING’

no matter what you write about.’


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