Writers Wandering in the Wilderness? I Don't Think So

Here’s the thing, if you write, continue to write or are just beginning to write you will undoubtedly hear the phrase, Write What You Know” at some point. The problem with the statement is that it can be easily misunderstood. I don’t believe it means if you know baseball, then you should only write about baseball, unless you want to. No, the word “KNOW” is pivotal.

In yesterday’s post I told you guys how it took forty years for me to become a successful author. What was going on in all that time? Granted, much of that time was spent in simply growing up and doing LIFE. But I have also come to KNOW an awful lot. And therein lies the treasure.

From the age of nine to fifty I had many experiences, trials and tribulations, joy and sorrow. All of which have gone into my bank of knowing. This is what I think the statement means. I’ve known joy. So I can write about joy. I’ve known grief, so I can write about grief. That’s how it works. Writers draw from their life’s experiences in order to allow their characters to function. Flannery O’Connor said, “We write WITH Characters and Action, not ABOUT character and action.” Only by tapping into our past experiences enables writers to present believable characters in story. Writers must be feeling to revisit the hard places as well as the joyful places.

As a young woman I did some things I am not proud of but now, through God’s grace, I can use those things to make me a better writer. I don’t need to tell anyone the details—it’s the experience that matters, the learned truth, the shared feelings that help bring verisimilitude to my craft. The people of Bright’s Pond astound me in many ways. Look, I never grew a prize-winning pumpkin. I know nothing about it and gardening is not one of my favorite activities. But, I can research pumpkins. What I can’t research is the joy and defeats of the endeavor—that comes from the wanderings, the willingness not to forget what I’ve been through. I might ot have birthed a pumpkin, but I’ve birthed babies. It’s the joy of the actual experience you bring to the fictional one.

It ALL matters. More tomorrow.

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