Pay It Forward · Quotes · Tips · Writing

Write What You Know



I’ve heard this advice my whole life.  If you’re going to write anything, start with what you know.  Only once you’re established can you use your imagination. I say poppycock!

In school we used to have this thing called a Personal Experience Essay and I dreaded it every year.  Nothing ever happened to me.  For three years I kept having to spin a different take on my school trip to Spain because it was the only writable thing that had ever happened to me.  I mean, what else was there?  Having to get my nose cauterized?  Hardly a nice experience to write about never mind one that anyone would want to read.  My dad getting cancer…never going to happen.  I was not writing about that for a grade.

Well, I shot myself in the foot, so to speak.  I complained for years that nothing ever happened to me, so my writing couldn’t be any good until something did.  Of course, I spent my spare time using my imagination anyway, but because of this ‘Write What You Know’ nonsense being all over the place, I thought I would never get published until I wrote something ‘real’.  So what happened?  One week before my 16th Birthday, I got diagnosed with cancer.

Well, I had my something to write about.  Just a pity that it took me out of school for a year.  All joking aside, the most important thing you want to know is that I’m fine…I got through it.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pleasant but I went back to school as soon as I could after my treatment, and Hot Dang if I didn’t just write a Personal Experience about it.  And I got a great grade.

I found it therapeutic at the time, so I continued.  I ended up writing a book about how a teenager experiences cancer.  I never got it published because it was never quite ready.  There’s always been something not right, something I’ve forgotten and besides…the story isn’t finished yet.  I’m still here and I’m still dealing with all the fallout of chemotherapy so I can hardly publish the book with a clear cut ending, can I?

Anyway, I got my wish.  I had something to write about.  I wrote a book, then…nothing.  I still had nothing to write about.  There are only so many ways and so many times that you can write about cancer.  There are only so many people who will read it.  The book I wrote, I had planned on helping teenagers prepare themselves for chemo and cancer…but there really is no way to prepare, which is why it’s still locked away on my computer unfinished.  How do you tell people your story and say ‘this is what to expect’ when everyone is different?  What if what I went through, which I’ll admit was ridiculously hard and ‘rare’, scares them?

Which is why I will never again allow anyone to tell me to Write what I know.  It’s impossible.  I studied Forensics, Humanities, Archaeology etc at Uni, does that mean I’m qualified to write a novel about it?  Not necessarily, but it’s not impossible either.  I love Classic Rock music and know all the words to all the songs I love, do I want to write a book about it?  No.  Who would read it?  So here’s what I know…I love history, crime, mysteries and yes, I will always try to educate people about the harsh reality of cancer.  So I’ll write about these things.

Even if that includes vampires, werewolves, witches and banshees.  I will write what I would want to read about.  I will write what interests me.  I will write what I love and enjoy reading about, and I will write it in the knowledge that there has to be at least one other person out there in the world who would like it too.  Life is not designed around what you want or what you need.  Life is not fair and it’s not easy.  This is what you write about.  You write, not about what you know, but what you feel, what you see, what you want, what you hope, what you desire…  That is what people care about.  Write what you want, when you want, how you want.  There will be someone who will want to read it.

So…what do you ‘know’?  What do you write about or want to write about?  I want to know.  I really, really, want to know.  Tell me, I’ll listen.  I’ll reply, I’ll help.  Anything you need, I’m here.  Even if it’s just a chat.


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