“Write What You Know”

Conventional wisdom says, “Write what you know.” In this day of easily accessible information, my options have blossomed. I can know almost anything now. If I get stuck, all I have to do is switch screens, pull up the internet, and search. (The thesaurus function is nice, too).

I do have one concern. I’ve thought recently that my search history makes me look like a maniac. My protagonist and his few brave followers need to fight a much larger force–look up guerrilla warfare. Oh, and maybe I should just have him blow up that bridge, so I’d better research how to make black powder. . .and how to blow up a bridge. How do I build a funeral pyre for the dead tyrant? divert a river? poison someone? which is the best sword/knife? How do you make stained glass? How big will a leopard grow, and under what conditions would it attack humans? As I make this short list, it appears that I have more violent tendencies than I ever imagined. One might think that my life (and my novel) are filled with horror.

It’s not true. These are the things I don’t know, but need for my story. Unfortunately, my search engine doesn’t show what I do know–what I have experienced. I have experienced kindness and selfless service. I know devotion, loyalty, and love. I have seen beauty, friendship, joy. I also know sorrow, and loss, and regret. Reverence, and grace, and faith are very real to me. These I try to capture in words, without benefit of a google search. And that is the challenge. How do I put the reality of these emotions and experiences into words. “Write what you know.” It sounds so simple, but it is a quest, an adventure, and often a frustration and agony. Maybe that is one kind of ‘writer’s block,‘ being filled with a knowing that no words can capture and describe. I am compelled to keep trying.

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