Write about what you know. This is one of the well known “rules” of fiction writing. Some writers have even taken it too far, and they only write about stuff they’ve been practically obsessing about for at least ten years.
In a way, we all write about ourselves; a part of our subconscious always resurfaces when we’re writing a story, no matter how far apart from our own lives we try to set it. Sadly, most writers try too hard not to involve their personal lives, their pasts, into the stories they’re writing.
A while back I used to do the same thing. I would try to keep the true me as far away from my narrators and characters and situations as possible. And in result, all I wrote were some stories. That’s what anyone can do, with a little bit of practice and time. Most writers might be tempted to draw a line between any character and themselves, for fear of being judged by their friends or relatives (if those people would read their stories), they’re afraid the people they know will see something that they aren’t supposed to see. But these kind of fears only put unnecessary pressure on the writer.
Also, I find it odd that most writers think about their lives and the people they know as never being good enough material for a character or story. Their lives are boring; they haven’t lived long enough, they haven’t seen enough square miles of this Planet, they haven’t done volunteer work in India, and people are going to hate their stories. But that’s not true. If you just look back at your life, you’ll see some pretty amazing and unique moments.
For any writer the act of writing should imply complete freedom. There are no rules to bind you, not when you’re sitting at that desk doing your thing. No. That’s why you should write about what you love. Write about what you hate, about your dreams and aspirations, write about your nightmares, write about what you hate.
Write about your passions, about the people you admire, write without fearing that you don’t have anything to say, because you do. If you’ve lived on this Planet, or even anywhere remotely close to Earth, you have something to say.
During our lives we accumulate knowledge, we absorb information, we live and breathe, we get our hearts broken, we meet quirky characters, we witness tragedies, we do all sorts of stuff, and all that needs to be there, on paper, because it’s what truly makes art beautiful.
I know it’s a difficult process. I know that introspection is painful, no matter who’s doing it, but I do know that, as Chuck Palahniuk once said, art is never born out of happiness. It requires solitude and work, it also requires patience, but keeping true to yourself, being honest in your writing, that can lead to wonderful things.
Art is constantly evolving because of this. Because artists have this unique ability to witness the world around them and absorb details that are invisible to others. They can see the beauty in the most mundane of situations, they can see the sublime in the most outrageous of actions, they can feel what others can’t, and for that they’re willing to pay a price. True artists are rarely happy; they live in order to observe, they live in order to make others feel.
To have the gift of clarity and not use it is a fate more cruel than you can imagine. To write down cute, empty stories because you feel that people will hate your for writing the truth is nothing short of a disaster.
A friend of mine once said that some of our characters have traits that we have and some have traits that we wish we had. We’re all searching for something in our writing. Whether we find it or not, the pursuit is what really matters. And it would be a shame to ruin everything by trying to keep your thoughts and beliefs out of your stories.
Keeping your true self away from your writing is one of the few really harmful things you can do to your stories. After all, we just want to make other people feel and say, “Yes, this can happen, this could happen to me. I believe.”