Write What You Know

“I’m thinking about writing a book, but haven’t figured out what to write about yet.”  That’s a statement made to me quite often when I meet people during signings, a writer’s workshop or readings.  It has always puzzled me.  I guess it’s the ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?’ thing.  Usually something happens that I’m reacting to (good, bad, ugly, whatever) that compels me to write.  So my response, which I feel a person is looking for, is “probably the wisest thing to do is write about what you know.”  Everyone has an interesting story, if not quite a few.  Really. If it’s not their personal story, it’s something they’ve heard  or witnessed.  Some people have exceptional interpersonal skills and can word weave captivating and unique relationships that are intriguing to read, while others have a gaming mind that can fill us with suspense or terror.  There are still others who can inspire us by sharing personal experiences where they’ve gained or lost (either way, learned from) that give us knowledge we can use to enrich and improve our lives.  Maybe written emotional purging is cheap therapy we engage in that will indirectly enable others to also derive benefits.  Writing doesn’t always have to become a book, though. I’ve completed only two books, but additional personal experiences, causes and concerns or longings have become stories, articles, poetry or even a blog post.  After advising an aspiring author to “write what you know,” I follow  up with, “ask yourself why you want others to know what you know; to awaken them and hope for deep thought, provide information, education or entertainment?    The answer to “why do you want others to know what you know?”  will usually drive you in the right topic direction.   Try not to throw up roadblocks, such as “nobody would be interested in that” or “there’s nothing special about me or what I know.”  I’m always surprised (but not shocked) by what others don’t know.  What our brains contain may seem second nature to us but brand new to those who’ve walked a different life’s path.  There is so much to know and life to live, how can anyone possibly know and have done it all.    So if you truly want to write a book, go for it!!  Teach me to maintain beehives or tell me what it’s  like to to be a bike courier in New York or if you’ve been married eighteen times, I’m curious enough to want to know how each began and how each ended or if you haven’t lived on land for the past fifteen years, maybe it’s time to drop anchor for a while, steady yourself next to a 60 watt bulb and write about every wind and wave that kept you out at sea.  Someone always wants to know what you know.   Who?  Now that’s a marketing question.

 Linda Bergman-Althouse,  author of, “Save Them All

Dinah, from the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter says Hello!