January 27, 2005

Write what you know?

I'm so damn The current mood of augustdreams at www.imood.com

In the long, sad history of bad advice to writers, I think the old adage "Write what you know." is the very worst. Did you know that when he wrote The Hunt for Red October Tom Clancy had never even been on-board a submarine? What if he'd written only what he knew? What if Tolkien had followed that advice? My own characters include ghosts, haunted loose change, interplanetary mercenaries and soul-takers with a moral code. The people I share those worlds with love and identify with them as much as I do. That those worlds and their denizens are real for someone besides me is one of the greatest joys of my life. There is no fat contract that could even come close to giving me that kind of satisfaction. Don't get me wrong - I want to earn my living doing what I love. But the love of it is the most important thing to me. And am I writing what I know? Of course not. But emotion is emotion.

Maybe you've never been trapped halfway up Mt. Everest by a blizzard. But I'll bet you've been cold. The kind of harsh cold that feels as if it's burning you. I'll bet you've been scared, frustrated and determined. Those emotions will translate. Research along with your own experiences allows you to go anywhere and become anything. How dull if we all wrote only what we knew. How many worlds would we have missed out on? I'm fairly certain nobody's ever been to Tattooine or seen an exploding Death Star. I hope nobody's ever been sucked down into the sand by a Graboid.

Don't write what you know. Write what you're passionate about. Write what moves you. Write what makes you laugh. Write what turns you on. Write what makes the words flow until you look up and suddenly two hours have passed and you come back to this world blinking and slightly disoriented. Don't write what you know. Write what you love.

I recently got some very good advice from an artist friend. "Trying to make a living as an artist (and I do consider writing to be an art) is a hard road to travel, but it's good for your soul." I would take that one step further and say that, for some of us, it's not only good but necessary. Our souls need our art to stay alive. It's what drives us, what brings us joy. I am incapable of going a single day without writing. Even if it's just a few notes on a story, a silly poem or an entry about sock monkeys.

Nothing seems to fuel that passion's fire like being around other writers. I think that's one of the reasons d*land is such a fantastic community (except for jimmysworld - that guy sucks goat balls). Tell me more about what you write. Tell me about your worlds.

In other news, have you ever been humming while you were microwaving something or vacuuming the house and and hit a note that put you in tune with the tone of your appliance? It's like you're singing a duet with it. Um... or is that just me?

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

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