We’ve all been handed this well-meaning adage at one point or another, usually when we are at a low point in our journey. Those who deliver it, invariably do so with a syrupy smile, sweet enough to place one in a diabetic coma. It’s meant to tell you to turn that frown upside down, or look on the bright side of life. You’re supposed to man up and make something out of that excrement-filled pie that just plummeted from the sky – straight into your lap.
It’s also some of the best advice you can give to a writer.
Write what you know, we are told over and over again. This adage can mean a myriad of things – write what you know in terms of training and skills… or write what you know in regard to human nature. I haven’t been a hit-man before, but I’ve worked at a place whose practices presented me with quite a moral dilemma. I’m not a race-car driver, but I know what it is to be overshadowed by an accomplished sibling. I didn’t live in the Depression, but I know what it is to feel great loss.
I write what I know.
This year has presented me with basketfuls of lemons that I’ve been busily – and joyfully turning in to lemonade. I’ve experienced emotions all over the map – and so, I write about them. Not about me – heavens no. Writers should never write “their life stories,” for I am sorry to inform you, your life – as mine – is probably not that interesting. I have encountered numerous people on my various journeys in life, and out of thousands of them, I’ve only met about four whose life stories would make a good story. Add in another five or six who have had events that I would borrow from. No, I write what I see. What I know.
I’ve concocted this basket of citrus fruit from which to make delicious drinks:
- A recovered drug addict who yearns to recreate his very first kiss 30 years later at his 25th high school reunion;
- A sociopathic spinster who goes on the lam, and merrily preys upon the kindness of strangers on a coast-to-coast-to-coast adventure;
- A shallow model who discovers the true depth of beauty after she is disfigured by a freak accident;
- A man who scrambles to keep secret his double life.
One of the people above is a figment of my imagination. The rest live among us.
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe