Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Write What You Know - part 1

If you've been writing for more than about three seconds, you have heard it said, "Write what you know." It was said by writer, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909). She was a novelist and short story writer. The quote has been said and quoted so much that it's become cliche'. When I first heard it, I thought it was great. As a memoirist and lover of true stories, it fits perfectly into my beliefs in story telling.

But the problem with cliche's is that they give us permission to turn our brain off. We use the quote without thinking. We write it, we live it, we believe it...without giving it another thought.

Somehow, my brain got switched back on the last time I read this quote. And here's the deal. While it's true that anyone who writes a memoir IS writing what they know, it's also true that as we write, we delve deeper into that which we know. And we learn that we didn't know it at all. Or at least that's the case with me. If we knew it all when we began our memoir, it would read like an encyclopedia, or the more modern, Wikipedia. Boring, right?

So, what do you think, my fine writerly friends? Do you, "write what you know"?

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