Write What You Know

Walking in Trafalgar Square today, just thinking it’s fucking cold and another day to write. For some reason, sometimes when I’ve hit writer’s block (which happens sometimes, like some people randomly get insomnia sometimes), I always get this voice in my head that says “write what you know,” like it’s some quote from a movie like Dead Poet’s Society or something that I found really moving as a young person.

For almost 15 years, I’ve been writing what I know, and I’m just now getting to the conclusion that the idea is crap.

After all, what I know, the only thing I can really know, is me. My inner workings, the thoughts and reasonings and interpretations I have. But the more I move through these contents, the more I’m beginning to realize I don’t actually know what’s going on in my own head most of the time. Things jump around, emotions and thoughts come unbidden, inspiration sinks and swells, and I’m usually not writing what I know, but rather what I’d really like to know more of.

If authors only ever wrote what they know, there would be no science-fiction. No Ender’s Game from the mind of Orson Scott Card, because he could never have known Battle School. No fantasy, no Lord of the Rings, because Tolkien couldn’t actually know magic rings and orcs. No fiction, with characters that come purely from the mind of the author, completely unknown prior to their existence as written word. Writing what you know is a way of ensuring you never write anything new. Writing what you don’t know, now there’s space to work in. Space to explore interests, and inspire interests in others.

I know that I don’t know what’s going on for me right now, or hardly ever. Lately, something I had a grip on seems to be trying to rear its ugly head back into my life. With most things, I try and keep a grip on it, and usually I end up just hanging on for the ride. I’m not suggesting I don’t feel like I have control over my life, because I do. I’m all “Drive” by Incubus lately, feeling empowered and shit. I’m just thinking that if I’m only looking for inspiration in what I actually know, it’s a pretty small pool of content. Time to go look for a new swimming hole.

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