Life Experience

27 Oct

One of the first things I learned during my Creative Writing MA is to write what you know. This bothered me, because what I loved about writing is that you can write anything you want and explore/experience those unknown things. Still, I understood why you had to start with things you knew…it’s easier. But this leads me to the question: Do we need life experience in order to be good writers?

What if you’re a young writer, someone who hasn’t experienced that much yet? No drama, no adventures, nothing except for those in your head. Does that mean you can’t write anything sincere and reliable?

The quick answer is no. You don’t need life experience in order to write about it. Sure, it might help, but unless you want to write your autobiography, it’s not necessary in order to write good fiction. Why? Because I live in a boring town where the most exciting thing that ever happened was when somebody stole house numbers. I still know a lot. I understand a lot. And I know how to place myself in someone else’s shoes. Even if they’re too big or too small. Or perhaps, especially then.
I always thought it helped that I watched a lot of TV, and that might be true, then I thought it might also be because I’m really empathetic, which also might be true, but now I know it’s because I’m a writer. You know, because true writers are born that way. They are perceptive, they understand others probably better than themselves and they see the world on pages. We have the gift to become anyone we want to be and understand them as if we really are them. Multiple personalities, but in a good way. We understand how those people would react in certain situations and what they’d say. So why would we need to experience it for ourselves first? Must we be suicidal to write about someone who wants to kill themselves? Do we need to be a Medieval princess in order to write about one? Is it necessary to be an alcoholic before being able to write about one? No. We have research and our writer’s mind. That’s all we need.

We create our own life experience. By writing.




2 Responses to “Life Experience”

  1. Karen Soutar October 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I love your last line! And it’s so true. I have just been looking at the ‘write what you know’ idea as part of my Creative Writing course, too. That phrase has always bugged me – how would any scifi or fantasy get written? I don’t know any dragons or robots. Now I understand that you may start from a point where you know something, but a writer uses research, imagination and other skills to take the story wherever they want. 🙂

  2. 2unpublishedgirls October 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    I completely agree with you. I don’t think all writers write what they know. I think they write what their Muse (or imagination) knows. 🙂 And stole house numbers…now that’s an intriguing plot idea. -RB

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