Posted by: Phil Anderson | August 10, 2014

Write What Other People Know

The advice most frequently offered to writers of all kinds has to be this: “Write what you know.” It makes sense. It’s logical. But its a little disheartening to a writer like me because, frankly, I don’t know anything.

I’ve lived all my life within a hour’s drive of where I was born. The college I attended seemed far away from home at the time, but it was really the same setting in a different city. I’ve traveled a little (even internationally, if Canada counts) but it’s not possible to experience a different culture when you’re just passing through.

I know some people, though. My grandma died last year, but she lived over a hundred years. She experienced a lot of change in her life, things I’ve heard about but can really only imagine.

My father-in-law worked for an airline and took his family to live on three different continents over the years. They have lots of stories. Sadly, not all the stories are as interesting as one might think, especially when they’ve been told over and over. Maybe its because they’re not my stories. I can’t picture the details, the sounds, the smells. I’ve considered trying, but I’d never be able to write their stories in a way that would be compelling or would do them justice.

What I can do though, is tell my own versions of those stories. I can imagine what it was like. I can embellish. I can create my own details, sounds, and smells. I can leave out the boring parts, or punch them up and make them more interesting. I can add the surprising twist at the end that didn’t really happen. In short, I can be inspired by them.

What about you? Is your own life worth writing home about? What about the people you know? Is truth stranger than fiction?

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