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This is kind of a personal realization for me, and here is the reason. For the last seven years I have been in a writing partnership with Skoora. Many of you know that. Thousands of pages have been drafted between the two of us. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words, and I'd gander millions if not billions of characters. These accomplishments have helped me grow as a writer, but recently I've found myself wondering how far I've come, and if I could go further. Because I realize that I have trouble letting go. We as human beings find a place where we are comfortable, and being shaken from that comfort causes us great stress. Something as simple as our favorite barista quiting after ten years of diligent service at our coffee shop that we go to just for them is enough to shake our emotional stability for a short time - and for some a great deal of time. What does that say about us? Well the obvious answer is we stick to what we know.
This is a double edged sword, because the greatest advice writers give other writers is 'Write what you know.' Yet when does that quit being enough? For the last six of the seven years Skoora and I have been writing, there has been a pretty prominent constant in our writing, and that is my primary character who goes by the name - I bet you can guess it - Tory. He's the character that really started it for me, the one who made me realize so much about myself as a writer, but also about myself as a human being. There has been something positive that has come from this, over the years as I've grown, so has he, to where I can now write him in any situation with ease. I know him better than I know myself, I now what makes him tick, I know what makes him smile, and what makes him cry (which is everything). I know what he wants, what he fears, who he cherishes, who he wishes he could love more. I know his vices and where he excels. He's a character that is as real to me as you or myself.
I know Tory.
But maybe it's time I stop writing what I know? I find myself performing a tap dance through flaming hoops and tanks of man-eating piranha when I try to write someone else, anyone else. I think with Tory I have grown as far as I ever will, and so this makes me wonder should I find a knew comfort? Should I find a new knowledge?
Is this a question that all writers should ask?
Is the advice, 'Write what you know,' too broad? If you know detectives, certainly you should write about that, if you know horses, then follow in Joe Henry's footsteps and write about horses. Yet, one of the greatest feelings in writing is learning something new. The research, the hardwork, the discovery that goes into writing the next scene, in building a life that you yourself can never live. Is that not the wonder of fiction? The wonder of using ones mind to weave tales that are remarkable and unfamiliar, but through time, effort, and perseverance, become familiar?
Should I put to rest my familiar comfort and face the fires of uncertainty? It's an interesting question that I know many great writers would disagree on. So this is something of a philosophical question that I don't believe has a write or wrong answer, but rather is left to personal preference, and it is the job of the writer to find that in themselves.
So I ask, what is your take on this topic, on writing the familiar, can this lead you into a dangerous downward spiral? Do you believe you should always write what you know? Do you believe that sometimes the best writing comes from learning and building new knowledge? When does it become time to move on? Should we always/never move on? I hope that this piece has allowed for some thought rather than confusion.
And on that note I leave with this idea:
What we know is limited, but what we can learn is a vast universe of unforeseeable potential. - Elizabeth Kelly