Sunday, June 14, 2015

Write What You Need to Learn

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

We've all heard the phrase "Write what you know." It's a bit of a controversial topic in writing circles. I agree with it to an extent--writing something you know about is definitely easier than writing something you've never experienced.

But what if it's something you want to experience?

That's a tricky phrase. I deleted it a few times before I decided that it's what I really mean. Because, really, who wants to experience Nazi Germany? Or losing both of your parents? Or being governed by a cruel, dystopian government?

(If you're like me, you might almost be able to risk it, just for the adventure of the story.)

As always, I'm focusing a little more on the characters-and-emotions side of the coin with this post. Because, really, isn't the difference between a good book and an okay book how it made you feel?

Even on this side of the phrase, it's a little tricky. We don't want to feel heartbreak, or grief, or betrayal, or go through all of the problems you put your poor main character through. (Or do we? There's a reason we read, after all...)

What we do want to feel, though, is the joy, the strength, the unnameable-feeling when the hero wins. When she survives despite the odds. When the theme is proved true after all.

We want the hope of knowing that, even though life is dark and times are hard, we can still win.

Sometimes, we forget about that. I know I do. I get lost inside my cynical, pessimistic mind, and I lose sight of hope, lose sight of joy. I'm so caught up in my own problems that I don't see the way through them.

This is where my writing comes in for me. When my main character (who, oddly enough, tends to reflect myself at the time of writing) makes it to the end of the story and finally figures out who he is and why he's been chosen, and then decides that it's been worth it all along, I decide that it's worth it for me, too.

Life is hard. But I'll get through it.

I write a combination of what I know--the problems--and what I need to learn--the hope at the end. And somewhere between "once upon a time" and "the end," I end up a little stronger than I was before.

Do you write what you know, or what you want to learn?

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