I remember hearing the old adage “write what you know” for longer than I knew that I would be a writer. Now, as an older, more seasoned, and sage writer I realize that there’s only the tiniest kernel of truth to that. It is impossible to stay in the small bubble of what you know or what you have personally experienced. I am inspired every day by the tiny vignettes that I observe in everyday life. I just wrote a poem based on something that one of my students said during class because it touched me.
So here’s why it’s impossible to write only what you know. Imagine the kinds of stories that we’d read if authors weren’t compelled to research or try new things in order to write about them. At one time, I would have said that you would never read about one of my characters at an oyster bar because I don’t like oysters at all. Just looking at them disgusts me but I have seen my grandmother fry them, put them in stuffing and order them in restaurants. She loves them so much that I don’t have to taste them in order to write a character who enjoys them. However, I can write several characters who love donuts and desserts without any research at all. If we wrote only what we know, we’d all be reading stories about the same things repeatedly. All of the stories would be he same and there would never be any new stories under the sun or any new genres born.
What I know is astounding. I am an evergrowing ball of knowledge. I think that I’ve said it here before that one of my dreams is to always learn, to consistently keep learning as I grow older because I hunger for knowledge in a way that may be unhealthy but it is necessary for me. So what I know, every day increases, it changes and expands daily. And I love it! I feel like that’s one aspect of my personality that works in so many ways and makes me a better person, poet, teacher and writer.
So I encourage you all to write whatever you want. Write what you know, write what you’ve experienced but step out on a limb and write everything you’ve ever wanted to create. Reach beyond what you know and write something new and exciting.