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Home > Why “Write What You Know” is Still The Best Advice

Why “Write What You Know” is Still The Best Advice

It’s true – this advice is up there with “Content is king” for me in terms of both importance and truth.

It’s important to understand what makes something good advice, and there’s a few compelling reasons that “write what you know” is valuable to writers of all experience levels.

Why does this make so much sense? There are many reasons, too many to list here, but I wanted to share two of the ones I found the most interesting and accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Writing what you know reduces friction.

Sylvia Plath once wrote in her journal that “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Plath’s work makes a compelling case for “write what you know” as sound advice, after all, one of the things that makes her writing so compelling is that her experience is at the core of so much of her work.

For a long time, I thought that she was right about self doubt being public enemy number one when it came to creativity, but lately I’ve begun to believe that the real culprit is actually friction.

It’s well documented that human beings, like water, take the path of least resistance. This preference for the simplest solution, the easily accessible over the more challenging is a deep seated part of our information seeking strategies.

Writing outside of our sphere of personal experience is certainly possible, but it introduces new sources of friction – like the need to research, the uncertainty of self doubt and the need to verify facts and statements, just to name a few. Writing what you know requires less effort to connect the dots between the information you have and writing as a tool for sharing that information.  Put simply, writing what you know is just easier.

2. Writing what you know reveals your personality

When we write what we know, we to reveal our thoughts, ambitions, ideas and personality through our writing in a way that’s unique to the subjects we understand through first hand experience. It’s also much easier to add the small touches that make a piece of writing engaging, like backstory, insight into the author’s thoughts and the lessons they’ve learned through living their subjects.

There is a time and a place for sterile, fact-driven content – encyclopedias, technical manuals and the like. Creative writing is best when it’s humanistic, compelling and relatable, and what is a lens if not a place to write creatively?

I think it’s very comforting and encouraging to know that the easiest way of writing is also the best way.

What do you think? Why does writing what you know matter?
Photo Credit: Rilind Hoxha via Compfight cc

 

 

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/tonyleather tonyleather

    Writing what you know is undoubtedly important, but researching what you do NOT know, until you can write an authoritative piece on the subject matter, is also very good for your development as a writer, in my humble opinion!

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      Absolutely!

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Miratex Miratex

      I agree

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/drbilltellsexcitingstories drbilltellsexcitingstories

    Thanks for the reminder! And, tonyleather makes an excellent additional point! I try very hard to live and work by each! ;-) Being a life-long learner has been a useful hallmark of my very long life! ;-)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Colin323 Colin323

    You write: “Writing outside of our sphere of personal experience is certainly possible, but it introduces new sources of friction …” I say, so what? Why should we always seek the easiest solutions? Researching new topics broadens our knowledge, pushes our creativity beyond comfortable boundaries, and can give us a sense of satisfaction in learning something new.

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      You’re very correct. But many would-be writers are easily discouraged – It’s important to encourage both forms of creativity, especially in a community like Squidoo, where many people are finding their voice for the first time or re-discovering their passion for writing after a long absence.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/getmoreinfo getmoreinfo

    I agree that when we write from the heart it can make a big difference with how our content connects with the reader, also I have found that it is important to be curious about things and always be willing to learn something new then we will have more things to share with others.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/d-artist d-artist

    Tom, that’s the best advice I’ve heard all day or even read….this is what I try to do, but unfortunately my visits to my lenses have dropped to almost nil…and to top it off, some visitors comments never find their way to the lens after being approved (yes, bug reports have been made too no avail)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/d-artist d-artist

    Tom, that’s the best advice I’ve heard all day or even read….this is what I try to do, but unfortunately my visits to my lenses have dropped to almost nil…and to top it off, some visitors comments never find their way to the lens after being approved (yes, bug reports have been made too no avail)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/d-artist d-artist

    Tom, that’s the best advice I’ve heard all day or even read….this is what I try to do, but unfortunately my visits to my lenses have dropped to almost nil…and to top it off, some visitors comments never find their way to the lens after being approved (yes, bug reports have been made too no avail)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/RenaissanceWoman2010 RenaissanceWoman2010

    I think writing with credibility is the key. It allows me to blend what I know (perhaps more deeply rooted in experience) with what I have chosen to explore (a fresh, enthusiastic pursuit). Sometimes the person who has just learned something new and exciting has a refreshingly passionate voice. Writing what we know is a major element of establishing credibility. Writing about what we find incredibly interesting is also huge. Sometimes we have a deeper back story than at other times. No matter which route we mindfully choose, high friction or low friction, if we create engaging, original, high quality content, and we stay true to our authentic voices, we will be honoring both the reader’s and the writer’s needs.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/MSchindel MSchindel

      Beautifully and insightfully put as usual, Diana!

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      Great comment. I agree completely, especially about using an authentic voice no matter what we write about.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/graceonline Kathryn Grace

      Diana, you nailed it.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/ComfortsOfHome ComfortsOfHome

    Friction is a really good word to keep in mind, I think. When a piece of writing doesn’t come smoothly and easily, it’s getting snagged on something rough – perhaps a lack of knowledge or understanding, or the uncomfortable feeling that comes with a lack of authenticity, or just the absence of the energy that comes when you’re fully committed to a piece of writing. In any case, it all slides out easier when you write what you know, instead of what you have to hunt for and construct.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/jsr54 jsr54

    When I write what I know, it comes from my heart and flows off my fingers. When I don’t, it’s a struggle. Easy choice!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/iman61977 iman61977

    cool

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/iman61977 iman61977

    cool

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/grammieo grammieo

    I so agree with this and with tonyleather’s opinion! Write from the heart and be able to back up your opinions too!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/adianty-lili2 adianty-lili2

    thanks

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/ALLED-lighting ALLED-lighting

    Great, get inspiraton about something you are going to write is also important, humble opinion!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/theseller theseller

    Coming from someone who has pushed towards the opposite, writing about the new, I have learned to blend in my passion. And excitement after i have been educated on a topic I didn’t know about. I see it that way too Renaissance. =) I’ve also come to the point that speaking from the heart about what you know is so much easier!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Stazjia Stazjia

    I was regularly commissioned by a UK antiques magazine to write articles on specific subjects, like the Aesthetic Movement, for example. When I got the commission for this article, I knew nothing about the subject but, like another professional writers, I did my research and not just online. I spoke to dealers in these types of antiques, read books, and spoke to experts.

    It was a lot of work but that was what I was paid to do. By the time I’d done it, I could write on the subject with confidence. When I submitted the article, the editor was delighted with it and not one word was changed.

    Yes, writing about what you know is easier but, if you do your research properly, not relying on one or two sources, make sure that all facts are corroborated, you can write on topics that were new to you before you researched them.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Stazjia Stazjia

    I forgot to say that writing style, even on subjects like antiques, can show your personality up to the point that it is required. Pushing yourself to the front of every article, online or in print, is not always what’s required especially if you are providing factual information.

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      Having a distinct writing style is definitely an underrated quality. I think another article is in order!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/LoreleiCohen LoreleiCohen

    When I read the headline I was thinking, “Wow. Stephen King must be one scary dude”. All kidding aside I think that this is very wise advice. Write on what you know, or research things you are passionate about, and write about those.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/knowledgetoday knowledgetoday

    I agree with write what you know, but sooner or later you run out of subjects, ideas, facts, or self knowledge and you need to push yourself to research an unknown. After a while the unknown will become familiar and you start the process all over again. Just as we experience change as our age changes, and new and old experiences cycle and recycle, likewise so does the writing. Our writing would become dull if we did not spice it up once in a while.

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  • http://www.squidoo.com/graceonline Kathryn Grace

    As you say, it’s easier and does not (usually) require as much research. Especially in informal writing, such as most of us do on Squidoo, writing what we know affords us the opportunity to write from the heart and to bring out the human good in ourselves, which in a subtle way, brings out the best in our readers, if we succeed in touching their hearts.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/AnuradhaM AnuradhaM

    Writing what you already know helps in penning down from an altogether prespective that no research work can help in.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/archetekt archetekt

    yes, for me writing about what I know comes much faster and easier. However that doesn’t stop me from learning about new topics and doing something new and then researching some more and then writing about it.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/hgb282 hgb282

    Writing what you know is more authentic and usually more meaningful. People more easily relate to insight gained from experience.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/aredey aredey

    wonderful

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/aredey aredey

    i deeply agree

  • Jethro Sas

    I think this post says the truth. We should write what we know and of course as time goes by, we should sharpen what we currently know. Keep sharing great tips! :)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/911-remediation 911-remediation

    When you like something the best thing you can do is share evryone with what you know and love this way your conetent will be the most hi quality content there is.

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