“Write what you know” is one of the most overly-used advice in writing. It’s such a cliche that you feel like people should stop writing about it already. So why the hell am I doing it?
Because it is a very useful cliche. It works, people take advantage of it and that’s why it has turned into a cliche in the first place. And it has definitely worked for me:
- My first two writing assignments were travel articles on 2 cities I knew well.
- The next one was a 5-piece article series on business management. I have a BA in Business.
- I wrote articles on social media based on everything I had learned blogging.
- I wrote several articles on Freelance Switch, closely related to freelancing.
- My article on writing while holding a part-time job (I loved) got published on Make a Living Writing.
- A city inspired an entire story, while a PR lecture inspired the premise for a novel.
The list goes on.
As obvious as it is, sometimes we underestimate what we know, or we fail to pitch our knowledge in the most intriguing way.
Brainstorming about things you know is a great exercise for finding ideas but sometimes we can make things a little too broad or narrow. And sometimes we focus on our degrees and researches so much that we forget that what we know also includes our failures, what we have experienced, what others have experienced, what we have seen and so on.
Make a list of areas you’d like to write about. Make a list of what you know, in the broadest sense. Then keep brainstorming, developing ideas, pitching and writing.
I am not saying you should only write what you know. I’m just telling you not to underestimate what you know. It can be a great starting point, whether you are just starting out or just feeling blocked.
It’s not a coincidence that the ultimate bestseller of legal thrillers is John Grisham, who holds a law degree. It’s also not a coincidence that he has gone on to write dramas revolving around baseball since he plays and coaches.
Go ahead. Make your list. You might be surprised about everything you’ve overlooked.