I was told of a writer who took his characters on dates, so he’d get to know them better. He’d literally be driving and engaging in conversation with characters that existed only in his mind.
Writing is an experience, and the word experience comes in different formats
The line “write from what you know” really has deep roots than the obvious literal meaning, at least in my recent evaluation of self.
Many years ago I believe I wrote how each character I’ve created in whatever work I’ve produced has been embedded with me in it. Whether it is a self- righteous character in a community that’s falling apart or a graduate who is uncertain about his future or the country’s future about education or a father who can’t seem to form a bond with his child.
All these characters when put together form what in essence is me, each flaw, each strength separated but in all, I am the one in the park, I am the host.
In this writing however I want to delve deeper into what exactly all this means; the whole idea of writing from what I know.
For example, I once wrote about a wrongfully convicted criminal and their release. Of course I have never been convinced of any crime before, however I did read the story about this person. That reading became my experience, it became something I know, however there was still that sense of who is this person, I didn’t know, and that’s when writing from what you know gets deeper.
I started to wonder for all the years in prison, what did this man yearn for. I tried to think what I would yearn for, but I was selfish, I thought of childish things, but then it hit me; this man who had been claiming his innocence for years, the one person who believed in him was his mother.
So I began there. I looked at my own experience with motherly relationship, how it is, how I dreamt it was, what went wrong or right etc. It was then that I built something for this character.
Writing from what you know means realising fantasies, desires and history of course. All these become tools of what you know. What you know is something vicariously lived to. I put my ear on the table a lot of times, when you’re silent, you hear a lot. These stories people share become roots to something that can have life later on.
I love writing, I love putting my experience on paper, that way it makes it more unforgettable, it exists for someone else to experience it with me. When I experience something beautiful, something intimate, I like taking pen and paper and undressing the experience, when I read it again, it’s like I am reliving it.
Every experience is beautiful, even the ones the we don’t like, at the end we can tell stories about that experience thus in turn someone can say really “oh I had something like that happen to me once” then an experience has turned into something common, a conversation.
So, when you feel like you don’t know what to write or even what to say to someone, start from what you know!