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Write What You Know or Learn What You Write

The mantra I heard over and over when I first started pursuing a writing career was “write what you know.” For the first year, I did just that. I limited my subjects to the things I had personal experience or knowledge in dealing with.

As I looked for venues to make some money – particularly online – I began to venture out into subjects I knew less about. I would supplement the knowledge with research. As I made a little more money, I got a little more daring. Today, I am willing to write about any subject as long as I have the ability to do a little research before I get started.

On the flip side, my fiction still stays within the boundaries of my personal knowledge. For me, fiction has a different edge to it than non-fiction. You just can’t fake it. There has to be a foundation of knowledge and understanding in order for the story to feel real and the characters to come to life.

Sticking to JUST what you know can lead to stale writing. Writing something that you know nothing about (with out taking the time to research and understand the subject) can make your writing silly and worthless.

So, should you write what you know or learn what you write? I say do them both. You stretch your knowledge, you stretch your writing techniques, and most of all you stretch your genres.

One Response to Write What You Know or Learn What You Write

  1. Renae February 21, 2008 at 1:10 PM #

    I just read another blog post about this same idea: http://punctualityrules.com/2008/02/13/write-what-you-know/

    Deb made some very good points that echo yours. We would be missing out on a lot of great stuff if writers didn’t use their imaginations. I, also, think that writing is a good way to think through things, so learning and writing go together.

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