Write What you Know…

I am not sure how many times I have said these words to my students; but suffice it to say that both they and I have lost track of the number of times that I have tried to make this their mantra.

Often, when faced with the task of writing something, students will very often repeat the age old litany of complaints, “I can’t think of what to write.” or, “How long does this have to be?” or “Is there another project that I can do for credit?”

To these, and the myriad of other complaints associated with trying to motivate others to write, I respond with, “Write what you know.”

It seems an easy enough initial solution. Students often find it easier to write from their own experiences, hobbies, summer adventures and the like than attempting to invent some sort of narrative on the spot. I encourage them to use that which they have lived as it is easier for them to develop their descriptive writing, there is also a chronology of actual events that they can use to keep their story straight.

Early on I had to fine tune this mantra a bit as I had students that chose to “over share” events that they had attended that were not appropriate for school. This again proved, for some of my budding writers, to be a point of frustration – as one student chided me for censorship. I countered with the fact that while it may seem that way, in actuality it was about responsible writing – that one could be held accountable for that which they have chosen to write. In their particular case I explained, the parents of said budding writer may conclude that the written excerpt was tantamount to a confession about what had happened over the weekend and choose to proceed accordingly. At this point the objection to my “jack-booted” style of  censorship was immediately withdrawn and a more appropriate topic explored.

That said, I find myself in a bit of a quandary when it comes to my own writing. It feels like a classic case of, “do as I say not as I do,” as I explore the genre of writing that I really want to engage in – that of the fantastic. I must confess that though I have read a great deal of this sort of fiction and been taken away to castles, caverns, mountain tops and fiery pits where I have vicariously engaged in battle with everything from orcs to evil wizards; all of this falls outside of what I legitimately think of as “what I know.” So, my question at this point in the writing process is not how to overcome the writer’s block; it is a matter of figuring out how to “Write what I know” so that I can start down this path of exploration.

While this does amount to a self reflection question – I would welcome people’s thoughts or links to posts that might be of assistance in this matter.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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