Every student of writing has heard the axiom “write what you know.” It is drummed into our heads by English teachers. We interpret this to mean write about ourselves, our town, our loves, our family. But this limits our writing and, indeed, our imaginations. “Write what you know” can have a much broader scope.
After losing my brother in 1984 I went kind-of nuts from grief. So much so that I walked into a closet at the home of an acquaintance during a party while looking for the bathroom. Once in the closet I didn’t know what to do. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I had closed the door behind me and couldn’t seem to leave. I was in the dark. When finally found I was asked the very logical question, “Why were you in there?” Of course I had no reasonable, or sane, answer.
Years later, I was reminded of this incident by that same acquaintance but had no memory of it at all. I had blocked out this most embarrassing occurrence of my life. It came back to me as a whole piece when it was brought up. I was speechless in its wake, mortified all over again.
In my book Under a Gibbous Moon there is a scene where the main character is rooted to a concealed spot atop a staircase, horrified and grief stricken by what she has overheard. In the writing of this episode I was again in that closet, crying, unable to get myself out. I know what it’s like to feel trapped, to feel helpless, to feel out-of-control. So I wrote what I know.
Be brave and dig deep. You’ll be surprised at how much you can write about, how much you really “know.”