Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing What You Know

I'm just getting back into the swing of things after a sojourn to the East Coast. Today I got a bunch of errands done. I started back on my regular workout. I got some writing and blogging done.

I recently read an article or editorial (can't remember which or where so don't bother asking) about writing what you know. I've found great creative success in this in both fiction and non-fiction.

It would be easy to write about random weird things in fantasy or science-fiction, but the most successful of these authors take real life conflicts and circumstances and translate them into fantastic contexts. This is part of the reason why science-fiction has been so successful in discussing controversial topics. Out of context, it suddenly becomes okay to discuss difficult or painful issues plaguing the human condition.

While I have enjoyed writing these fantastical genres a great deal (my imagination really does love to run wild) I'm finding a simple pleasure in writing non-fiction related to things near and dear to my heart (particularly in ways that may help others). Even creative non-fiction, which straddles the two larger realms of prose, has been a great pleasure to write, though I've only written short pieces.

It's only been recently that I've dipped my toe into yet another area of fiction - realism. Or is it humor? I guess it depends on how you read things (play intended). Whatever the case, this little budding realist novel draws heavily from my personal experience. It so captured my attention that I stopped working on my designated master writer plan projects and wrote almost 10k before forcing myself to work on something I promised myself I'd finish this year (balancing the creative muse and discipline seems like a good blog post for later!).

Writing what you know is always good advice, not only because it means a writer's work is more likely genuine, but because it is so easy to commit to paper (or 1s and 0s). Whenever I do this in my fantasy novels or am writing non-fiction, my fingers can't move fast enough. I have too much in my head and it's all struggling to get out. If only I could move faster than light...I might be able to keep up with the insanely creative urge in my brain. 

The unknown, on the other hand, is a huge stumbling block. I have to break out of my zone, stop writing, and research, research, RESEARCH. It's painful and causes me to stumble over my words. Indeed, there have been times when I've lost myself in research because there was so much I could learn about a given topic. And I happen to enjoy research, but it doesn't mean I'll produce a book. It just means I'll wade through websites, articles, and possibly learn something (if only that a given site is bullshit).

I've run into both curses (or blessings) during my master writer projects this year and frequently within the same project. This has caused me some difficulty while trying to meet daily and monthly goals. Some months felt like I couldn't write fast enough. Some required more research than others. Even in books that were derived from personal experience I found it necessary for some supplementary reading which slowed my writing.

The fact of the matter is we can't always write what we know. But we can incorporate what we know into everything we write. The unknown can enrich our writing (Research is a good thing!) as long as we're willing to do the legwork to make it worthwhile.

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