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"Write What You Know" Debunked (Guest Post by Allyson Jamison)

Updated: Apr 2, 2023


Hello Visionaries! Today I am so happy to present you with a guest post from Allyson Jamison! I love Allyson's blog, which you can find here. It's full of great tips, advice, encouragement, and book reviews! Honestly, I think I'll just copy and paste all her posts over here, joke. BUt seriously, you should totally check it out!


So, she said I could pull any post I wanted from her blog and here we are! I love this one! Because I cannot tell you how many times people have told me to "write what I know". Which sounded wrong to me because part of writing is learning. My dad's favorite thing to tell me was, "Write what you don't know and grow." (Should I do a post expounding on this?)


I hope y'all enjoy this post!


 

When I was first starting out as a writer, I heard this common piece of writing advice “write what you know”. As a ten year old writer, this was depressing. All I knew was how to climb trees and run faster than most of my friends. I didn’t know much of anything.

But that’s where this advice is misunderstood. Writing what you know isn’t about writing about a car accident because you were in a wreck, writing what you know is about writing the emotions that go into such an event.


I feel like this is a common misbelief among writers. But it’s false. Maybe they should say “write what you feel” because I think that might be more accurate.


Writing what you know is about the emotions, what you feel. Or, in other terms, it’s about themes. So if you were in a car accident, you would know how it feels to be in pain. If you’ve ever lost someone, it’s not that you would know how to write a death, but you would know how to write the grief that plays into that. You know how it feels and so you know how to write it.


How to “Write What You Know”


To take this to a deeper level, I want to discuss themes.


Themes are my favorite element of any book that I read but it can be a tricky thing to get right when writing a book. This is when this writing advice is actually, well, good advice. I believe that in fiction you can make anything up and don’t have to rely solely on things you specifically know about. However, I would advise writing a theme that is close to your heart.


Using the earlier example, if you have ever lost a loved one before, you know how it feels to grieve. Therefore, you know how to write it. You could go into more depth with that theme than I could because I have never lost someone I was especially close to.

Or maybe you come from a divorced family and so you know all the emotions that play into that. You’ve experienced those feelings of abandonment, loss, sorrow, and perhaps even feeling you’re to blame for what happened to your parents. These are all emotions that would make powerful themes within a book.


But it doesn’t even have to be something as drastic as that. It could be an experience as simple as a sibling played a dirty prank on you and now you want revenge. Revenge is a common theme within books as well. And now you know a bit of what it feels like.

Sometimes young writers can feel as though they can’t write a good book because they don’t have enough life experience. I’ve felt this way before. But when you examine your life, I think you can find that you have a lot more experience than you might think.

It’s not always about events that you have been a part of or crazy things that you’ve done. It’s more about the emotions of day to day life. How does it feel to be a part of a divorced family? Or how does it feel to be a part of a loving family? How did it feel when you played an equally dirty prank on your sibling and got the revenge you so desperately wanted? Or maybe you chose to forgive them instead and “kill them with kindness” as the saying goes, how did that feel?


There are so many examples on how you have already experienced so much of life. And, the good news is, each and every day you experience so much more. Live life to its fullest and always be aware of these emotions within yourself or in the people around you. By doing this, you can have enough fodder for stories all your life and always be able to “write what you know”.


About the Author

I am a quirky young writer with a passion to serve Christ in all that I do. Writing makes up the very being of who I am and I could never imagine doing anything else. In my spare time, you can find me reading my pocket-sized thesaurus, playing friendly pranks on unsuspecting family members, or writing my next great novel. Always with a cup of tea.

You can connect with me on my blog, Instagram, Goodreads, or my Newsletter.


 

Wasn't this a great article? I love that Allyson debunked this popular myth, I don't know how many times someone has told this, so her take on it is so nice!


What are your thoughts on writing what you know? Should we step outside our comfort zones? Should we write the hard things? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


Bless!

Kaytlin Phillips

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10 Comments


Sarah Twilight
Sarah Twilight
Dec 14, 2022

I love that advise!!

So often writing what you know is misunderstood. The more a theme or emotion hits home to you the more it will hit home to your readers.

Keep writing!

Jessus loves you!

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Abby Burrus
Abby Burrus
Nov 04, 2022

Yes, books come from our lived experiences and feelings as writers! But also it's good to branch out.

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sydneywitbeck
sydneywitbeck
Nov 02, 2022

Agh I loved this! (and fyi, I think every young author needs to hear this!!!) I need to go check out her other posts now!! 💖💖 *waves bye as I go in search of the blog* Thanks for sharing :)

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Nov 02, 2022
Replying to

Glad you enjoyed the post! Yes! Definitely check out Allyson's blog!

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Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
Nov 02, 2022

YAS!!! I loved this post when I first saw it, and still do now!!! It's SO good and I completely agree with all of what she said! 😍 (And yess, Kayti, I'd love to see you do a post about "Write what you don't know and grow." 😉)

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Nov 02, 2022
Replying to

I know so good! (I shall brainstorm some ideas...expounding upon the teaches of my wise papa...lol...sorry, had to write it like that...haha...)

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M.L. Milligan
M.L. Milligan
Nov 01, 2022

That's my girl! What an awesome post. I wish somebody told me this when I first started writing!

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Allyson Jamison
Allyson Jamison
Nov 01, 2022
Replying to

Thanks! Ikr?? For so long this boggled me and even held me back from writing what I truly wanted to. But then one day it clicked! I was like, no more!! 😂

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