don’t write what you know

Posted by Daniela Elza on Aug 01 2011

I saw a link to this on FaceBook. Well, yes, I am dabbling in FB and it has been confusing, overwhelming, joyful, and frustrating. But from time to time you feel glad to be there. Like today. I found a link to this article. (Thanks Dennis for reposting.)
Don’t Write What you Know by Bret Anthony Johnston in the The Atlantic.
Here are a few things that resonated with me as a poet and with other things I have read or heard about writing. I too believe that unless as writers we learn something new, which means risking entering territories we are not familiar with, it might not be worth the ink.

…The shift was seismic. My confidence waned, but my curiosity sprawled.

…Stories aren’t about things. Stories are things.

…Stories aren’t about actions. Stories are, unto themselves, actions.

…The goal isn’t to represent an experience, but instead to create a piece of art that is itself an experience.

…The idea of a writer “wanting” to do something in a story unhinges me. At best, such desire smacks of nostalgia and, at worst, it betrays agenda.

…And writing what you know is knotted up with intention, and intention in fiction is always related to control, to rigidity, and more often than not, a little solipsism. The writer seems to have chosen an event because it illustrates a point or mounts an argument.

…And if empathy is important to fiction, compassion is invaluable. Compassion is empathy on steroids.

…Writers may enter their stories through literal experience, through the ground floor, but fiction brings with it an obligation to rise past the base level, to transcend the limitations of fact and history, and proceed skyward.

…I say fiction is an act of courage and humility, a protest against our mortality, and we, the authors, don’t matter.

I have discovered these are valid points for poetry as well.

Here are also 50 writing tools (via Cool Tools). Summed up in one of those cheat sheets format. You can print them on one sheet of paper. 50 of them. Like those sheets I would put all the math formulas that I could not remember for tests. Good reminders.
Then after the test, misplace, displace, and forget.

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