There's a lot to be said about writing what you know. Next to "show don't tell" it is probably one of the most often-quoted lines of advice in publishing. It is also most often assumed to mean sticking to your particular fields of expertise, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Here's three things I discovered after shipwrecking on what was lying beneath the surface of that definition...
1. Know myself and the way I work as a writer before I start comparing myself with others. Especially when it comes to how I get and assimilate ideas, and how much I can comfortably accomplish in a day.
2. Learn my own language. Can I tell when (and if) an idea is ready to be written down? Do I trust a first draft to reveal things to me because I know I can fix any inconsistencies on the edits? Do I know when I'm not stumped, I'm just tired?
3. Stay true to my characters and their world before I resort to techniques. No matter how current or sure-fire I think they may be. They are only surface cosmetics, anyway, with the same result as taking out one's dentures at night. I must remember that even a glimpse behind the curtain deflates the magic.
No one can know these things but me. If I neglect to discover them for myself, I will have to resort to either constantly sounding the depths of the publishing world (which ultimately distracts me from my own forward progress), or piling up on the rocks, altogether. A writer travels through dangerous waters, over unseen hazards and frequent fogs. Sometimes even through hurricanes. I must not forget that any readers who agree to travel with me are trusting me to get them somewhere. I am responsible for them if I want to keep them.
So, I first have to know where I'm going, if I can actually get them there, and -- most importantly -- if they will have a satisfying enough experience to want to travel with me, again. I have to know myself very well in order to do this. Because if my journey is to be real enough to spring to life in such a way that it can also become someone else's adventure...
Then I can only write what I absolutely know.
What's happening on the farm today: Spring fever and waiting for goat babies. Bella's twins, Bonnie and Brie, have arrived. But we are still looking forward to see who Nan will surprise us with. Happy, happy times!
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