What You Know

Write what you know…

I was recently prompted to read an article in the New York Times about whether or not ‘writing what you know’ was a piece of wise or unwise advice. Ever since I was little, as young as seven years of age, I found my own experiences to be so much more mundane than the incidents of princesses and talking lions I created in my innocent stories. Furthermore, in the moment, something ridiculous and unique can happen to you, and observers may laugh because they’d never witnessed such a comical moment. However, try telling this same recollection to friends or family afterwards, and they might chuckle… for a moment… just to be polite. So my conclusion: experiences are momentary involvements that are completely distinctive. Perhaps a piece of fiction is more entertaining than a personal remembrance, because a work of fiction can have comparable quality to an in-the-moment experience.

Now… after reading these last two sentences of the above paragraph to my friend, she squinted her eyes at me, pursed her lips together, and said, “that is difficult to swallow”. Rereading those last two sentences myself, I understand her stance because I suppose those last two sentences resembled an equivalent to, ‘memories are insignificant and relaying them to a family member or friend is senseless’. Of course I don’t mean this, and of course memories are important. I’ve had a grandparent die in the last year, and without memories I would not be able to remember birthday parties with him or Christmas’ with him, or the times he attempted to teach me how to parallel park. However, a memory with my grandfather is nothing compared to the actual moment when he put his hands over mine, on the steering wheel, mimicking how I should turn the wheel when sliding my car into a space on the side of the road. Telling this specific story to my friend, could not give that moment justice, for I remember smiling during this moment, my grandfather remaining calm while the previous day, my mother had been red in the face; her frustration had gotten the best of her. This is going to be a strange comparison, but stick with me, and maybe you will understand my perspective. Memories, a piece of fiction, and an in-the-moment experience (an instance) are all like apples. A fruit that I love, and they all taste delicious, but sometimes one apple is better than another one. For example, an instance with my grandfather is sweeter than a memory I recall to my friend. Also, a piece of fiction can be extremely sweet, a mix of exaggeration and a true experience. Nevertheless, they are all similar in that they are stories, and they are all certainly sweet in their own right.

All I mean to say is this- writing what you know may not always be as powerful as writing a story that is based off of truth, that includes colorful language and exaggerated imagery. Fiction does not always have to be a completely new idea. It can be an occurrence built up to its highest potential.


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