Write what you don’t know

I know, this is late, and I’m sorry. I could come up with a fascinating excuse about being chased by spies through railway stations, or whisked away to Oz, or just finding myself trapped underground with the water slowly rising, but none of these are true (this time…). I just got very confused as to my days.

Anyway, this is what I wanted to say.

Write what you know, we are told, often. Well, if I did that, I’d only write about disappointing shopping trips and not getting round to doing the washing up. Mrs Hudson in my book has been a wife and mother. I’ve been neither of those, I can’t write what I know about it. I have to imagine it.

If people only wrote what they know, we’d have no Lord of the Rings, or Narnia, or Wind in the Willows, or Harry Potter….

I’d like to change ‘write what you know’ to ‘write what you imagine’. It still needs a basis in what you know. I haven’t been a wife and mother, but I have loved people, and I have watched people, and from that, I imagined what it would be like to be Mrs Hudson – or anyone else (and that has included a few murderers by now). Imagination has played a far greater part in my creative process than first hand knowledge.

Besides, I’ve often find that writing about something I know little about is a great way to get into someone’s mind, and work out what they feel and think. Writing is an act of exploration of a world outside our own.

So write what you know, then write what you can imagine, and your story will fly.

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7 responses to “Write what you don’t know

  1. Thank you for an excellent post–I love your idea of “write what you imagine.”

  2. Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is an excellent blog post on a topic I have written about before, and I think it is a very useful treatment of this writing issue.

  3. I believe there are no rules pertaining to creativity. The sky is the limit in one’s expression and creative output, which includes writing. I say “pshaw” to those who impose their rules.

  4. Pingback: Capitalism and the Ordination of Magic | Awaiting Moderation

  5. I’ve been thinking about this myself recently–about the magic of creating someone who doesn’t actually exist and then creating a mind for that person—almost always a kind of person you’ve never been and never will be. I’ve done that with every book, especially since I’ve written from a male pov most of the time. I was once told by a (bizarre) agent at a conference that a woman couldn’t write as a man and vice versa. I thought, my goodness, you’d have to throw out enormous chunks of world literature if you truly believed that! For example, Shakespeare. . . . ! Thanks for the inspiring thoughts.

  6. I prefer the Write What You Imagine phrase also…as long as you simultaneously Know What You Write!

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