October 20, 2021

Novel Ideas #3 – Write What You Know

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.”  ~ Sylvia Plath

 Granted, this quote comes from Sylvia Plath, who is well known as an autobiographical writer, but I’ve been thinking about how much of myself I put into my writing.

When it comes to poetry, the energy that drives me to write a poem is almost always highly emotional and usually extraordinarily personal. I find that poetry is often an excellent way to frame those tiny, uncatchable moments of intense feeling.

Now that I’m battling with my very own novel, I keep noticing how much of myself is sneaking onto the pages. And I don’t mean that a petite red head with glasses and passion for words is the main character. In fact, the character I’m writing at the moment is very different to me.

What I mean is that I find myself recalling my own experiences, feelings or sensations in order to write them into the story so my characters are more real. I’m drawing on my own life without setting out to do so, and I find that quite interesting.

I’ve heard the dictum ‘write what you know’ so often, and I’ve never been entirely certain whether I agree with this. I suppose now I’m feeling my way through a longer piece of writing, it seems that for me a balance between writing what I know, and imagining what I don’t, is the way I’m leaning.

Regardless, I think it’s important for potential writers to be sensory connoisseurs; to sample what experience has to offer and to take note (either physically, or mentally). Noticing the world around us makes better writers.

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