Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Write What You Know . . . and Then Some

“Write what you know.” That has got to be one of the most oft-repeated words of advice when it comes to writing. It came to mind today after five-year-old Penny wrote her first ever novel. Mini novel? Novella? Short story? Well, she called it “a book.” It consisted of three sheets of printer paper folded in half and stapled at the seem, and it told the following story:

Shark lost a tooth.
The shark was asleep and the tooth fairy came.
Shark woke up and there was his dollar.
Shark was running so fast to his mom.
His mom and dad were sleeping so he had to be quiet.
Shark ran to his mom and showed her his dollar.
Shark ran to his dad and showed him his dollar, and his dad was so happy.
The End

It was complete with pictures of shark smiling at his dollar and tip-toeing past his two sleeping-shark parents in their shark bed. The wording was all hers. . . . Though, after several tedious minutes of telling her how to spell every word, I took over transcribing the story.

It made me chuckle because, my goodness, that was very definitely an example of writing what you know – Penny’s first tooth having fallen out, amidst much drama, only a week ago. I liked that she took something she knew and understood and then, stretched out beyond that and created a little more because, no, it wasn’t a little girl who lost her tooth and ran to her sleeping parents; it was a shark, with big triangle-shaped pointy shark teeth.

I recently read an article on the old “write what you know” philosophy. The author (Melissa Donovan) said:

It is true: you should write what you know, but you should also leave room in writing for the unknown, room to explore and discover new truths, ideas, and possibilities.


The most fantastical worlds in storytelling are beloved because they are full of truths. They tell us who we are as individuals and as a society.

It made me think about blogging and why I love it so much -- why it is, actually, one of the things I most enjoy doing. There is just something exciting and almost magical to me about this; so much anticipation in seeing a white empty computer screen and knowing I can transform it, that I can use words and even images of the things “I know”, and,  after a few minutes, change an empty and meaningless blank screen into a piece of my life and the life of my loved ones -- something to share and save but even more, something that might have drawn more out of me . . . or, maybe that’s the wrong wording, drawn more out of my life? My experiences?

I loved Melissa Donovan’s statement about not just writing what we know and leaving it at that, but stretching it a little further to things we might be trying to discover, to possibilities, to unveiling truths. I love that there is potential for that in just the run of the mill things that I know – clutter and Band-Aids, Play-Doh and piano practice, running injuries and bed times.

I know nobody reading this particularly needs to know why I enjoy this so much, why I would happily post something every day if I had the time, but I wanted to share why it matters to me. I wanted those I love to know what the draw is for me, why I find recording here to be so rewarding. It helps me to dig into this little, fairly ordinary life of mine and find spectacular and wonderful and perfect in the ordinary. Growth in the everyday. I don’t always do it well, or right. My images don’t always capture the moment exactly as I want to remember it. Very often it is only the exact face value of what I have put on the screen – a picture of my kids, a telling of an event; but, every now and then, it turns into something more. It shows me some truth about life or myself or people that my mind hadn’t before grabbed onto. It opens my mind to new ways of seeing things or allows me to reach, just a little, towards something unknown – something I might still discover – kind of like having a word on the tip of your tongue, but much much bigger. And the chance that maybe, just possibly, something like that might happen each time I begin clicking away at the keyboard? Well, it is too exciting to pass up!

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