‘Write What You Know’ Doesn’t mean ‘Write What You Know’ (and I’m over the moon about this)

The above is actual footage of me losing it during medication time in my old job when I was a ward sister (or deputy ward manager in the modern naughties) on a psychiatric ward. Not really! The photo is from the WordPress free photo library (thank you).

Ever since I had to give up nursing (sad face) and start writing (YAY!), there are certain phrases, questions and instructions that us writers often hear. And when I say hear, I mean roll our eyes and get bored with.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about this month, in my writerly ramblings post. Thank you for joining me, and yes, I know I made that word up…

WHY DON’T YOU WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW?’ 

Me: ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!

Fortunately, my mature student adventure of my Creative Writing degree has taught me that when ‘they’ ask ‘Why don’t you write what you know?’ In true expert literary terms does not mean ‘Write what you know about (in the sense of I used to be a nurse, so write about nursing)’ No, this means, write about what you know as a human being, use your senses, your imagination and your memory. This will help you with your descriptions, your characters, everything. I mean what you can see, taste, feel… what you can create.

THE ABOVE IS WHAT YOU KNOW AS A WRITER.

THRILLER WRITERS HAVE NOT COMMITED MURDER IN ORDER TO WRITE ABOUT IT.

HILARY MANTEL WAS NOT ALIVE DURING TUDOR TIMES YET SHE WAS ABLE TO IMAGINE ENOUGH TO EXPERTLY WRITE ABOUT THEM.

RICHARD ADAMS WAS NOT A RABBIT, YET IF YOU’VE READ WATERSHIP DOWN YOU WILL HAVE FELT LIKE YOU’VE LIVED IN A WARREN. 

I do hope that has cleared things up for those of you who insist on asking those questions to myself and other writers.

This is not to say that I may have drawn on my experiences of psychiatric nursing to write a short story for my degree (one that I got 92% for btw)

Happy writing, Samantha xx

PS Join me next month for my writerly rambling about character names – I feel a guest post series coming on!

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Ah, so true! We hear this so many times and what amuses me most (for amuses, read annoys) about this is that there is an assumption that, if you write romance (as I do) or even more specifically, a sex scene, you must have experienced that. What? Why? They wouldn’t assume it for other genres such as the examples you give. Crazy old world, isn’t it? Joining you in a serious case of eye-rolling x

    Liked by 1 person

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