How to write what you know (even when you don’t know)

Pointing Telescopes | S. Noel Brady


It’s as ubiquitous as “Show, don’t tell.” You probably can’t even remember the first time you heard it, it’s touted so widely – in advice books, in classrooms, in movies about writers. Even the most non-writiest nonwriter who hasn’t held a pen since high school knows to write what we know.

But what does that actually mean?

For the budding storyteller, it’s a good stepping stone for getting words on the page. Write what you understand, what you can easily talk about, what’s already in your repertoire. Not sure where to start? Start with your surroundings, your experiences. If you’re a hot dog vendor in NYC, write about being a hot dog vendor in NYC. If you’re a goat herder in the Swiss Alps, write about being a goat herder in the Swiss Alps. If you’re a collector of Japanese companion dolls, write about…. Er, maybe not that.


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