What You Know vs What You Don’t

I was snooping around on Twitter and found some interesting arguments about writers. Someone said that all writers should write what they know and not write about anything else. I thought that was a very strange thing to say. There was a bit of a counter argument, but the “write what you know” posse was very insistent upon being right.

Sitting back and crossing my arms, I thought for a moment. I don’t understand how you can only write fiction stories about what you know. I mean, I could because I know a lot, but then it becomes-well, is it true? I don’t have time for answering those questions, but it did give me pause.

If we write what we know, the following would not have ever happened: The Hunger Games, any zombie apocalypse, The Force-as in Star Wars…and you can kiss all the comic book mutants goodbye. All the fun stuff in your life would be gone.

Sure, I could write a book about vampires, but there would be no spark. I can hear the questions now, “How do you know this is a conversation that vampires had? Is it true? Were you there?”

No dumbass. I wasn’t.

I bang my head often or watch drug deals go down outside my apartment. Also lots of dog walkers over here.

If you ask me, the purpose of writing is to escape. I heard a fellow writer say this on a podcast and I believe it. My childhood was a bit wonky, to say the least. Bussing started when I was in second or third grade. Nothing says “Welcome to the West Side of Cleveland” more than a bunch of angry white parents yelling at your bus as it passes. They had to practically sneak us off the bus to get into the school. It was a nightmare. But, back to my point, if I ever were to write about my childhood and wrote about being bussed to another school, I’d add a few magical elements or something. All the Black kids on the bus had super powers and could turn invisible, following the parents home and tormenting them. Sounds ridiculous, right? But it’s better than me writing about being a terrified eight year old black girl wondering if these white people are going to kill you. Then, you think, “I haven’t done anything to you! Why are you like this?”

“What were you saying about kids from the East Side?”

To all the people that are all about “writing what you know”, please get back to me and let me know how that’s going for you. I’d rather let my imagination run wild and come up with some crazy off the wall shit that I’d love to read. (An example is a black Scooby Doo gang chasing a Wendigo in Cleveland during the 80’s. Yeah, I wrote that shit. Get your hands on it and a bunch of other good stories too!) If I loved reality that much, I wouldn’t want to escape. What you need to realize is that we have been in a pandemic and I’ve been home with a teenager for over a year now. If I didn’t have a way to escape, I would have painted the walls with my brains, hers and anyone else.

Instead, I got to read about haunted schools, strange kids, angels and all kinds of stuff. Now the question I have for you is what would you prefer? Also, how many books could you really write if you only wrote about what you know? Not that many.


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