Write What You Don’t Know

I have dozens of books on writing. I’ve attended conferences and seminars on writing. I’ve taken writing courses, read hundreds of articles on writing, and even talked to published writers about writing. There seems to be a common thread with all of these resources. They all say write what you know.

Isn’t that just the stupidest thing you ever heard?

The problem is, I believed it for years. Decades, even. I used it as an excuse not to write because I really didn’t know very much, so therefore I wouldn’t be able to write anything worthy of a reader’s time.

I believed a lie.

Okay, okay, I get that you need to know stuff if you’re going to write a technical manual or some such thing. But even with that, you’d be shocked to find out how many of those books and articles are actually written by people who know absolutely nothing about the subject. In my corporate days, we would hire technical writers to come in and write our procedures manuals. We gave them the information. They churned out the books. And they knew absolutely nothing about our business.

I present to you the truth. Write what you don’t know.

In the land of fiction writing, your imagination is your most valuable tool. It’s your survival gear. Without it, you perish. You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about everything. But you can imagine it. You can create it in your mind and bring it to life as you write.

Do you know that the human mind cannot distinguish between something you’ve actually experienced and an experience you’ve vividly imagined? I like that. Because I can, just like that, write about something I don’t know as if it really happened. How sneaky is that?

Now I just need to figure out how to vividly imagine that my house is clean.



Filed under Being Creative, Imagination, Writing

3 responses to “Write What You Don’t Know

  1. Chris Jordan

    Wendy – I like your line: “Do you know that the human mind cannot distinguish between something you’ve actually experienced and an experience you’ve vividly imagined?” I too have always been told to write about what I know, but in the fiction story I’m writing, I am writing about things that I don’t know about – pirates and tall ships and fantasy characters. But I thank you for giving me the go-ahead to write about what I don’t know. Sure, there is research to be done for some of the technical aspects of ships and sailing and things like that, but I am going to enjoy writing about what I don’t know…
    p.s. thanks for the regular encouragement for me as a writing – blessings to you!

    • Thanks for the comment, Chris! And I’m so glad that you “get” what I was trying to say. I like it that we are writing buddies and traveling this journey at the same time. Blessings to you too.

  2. Pingback: The Perception of it All | Inside the Writer

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