Over-used, old writing maxim: “Write what you know.”
Misunderstood, old human maxim: “Know thyself.”
Can writers always know what they’re writing about? What if they need to describe the death-thoughts of a character? Do they have to die to know?
Some writers will go to extraordinary lengths to get close to knowledge they have to convey in their stories–exotic research, dangerous journeys, ridiculous jobs.
Tracey Baptiste was able to approximate critical knowledge by merely permitting her children to be away for a summer visit. Her post, Writing from non-experience, is worth reading to know how resourceful writers can be when they need to know. Plus, when you know her novel, Angel’s Grace, was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City Librarians, you’ll appreciate the value of following her blog :-)
Did you notice how many times I used the word “know” in that last paragraph? Now, why would a creative writer purposefully over-use a word?
Since words are the substance of my trade, I often check an etymology dictionary while I’m crafting a piece. When I checked “know”, I didn’t at first know what to think. Usually, a word, let’s say “write”, will have other words as root meanings, like write’s “cut, carve, scratch”.
Know has only know as its root meaning…
Apparently, one is supposed to know what know means. Know what I mean?
Most writers have extremely volatile imaginations. Many have gotten away with writing about things they’ve never known, in the sense of having personally experienced, because they’ve known how to use a bit of research and a flock of intuitions to get oh, so close to seeming like they’ve been there.
Write what you know is just one of the many things writers professionally cheat at when they pursue their strange craft :-)
In case you wonder at my use of the word “cheat” in that last sentence, check its roots here…
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