So, remember that bit about "write what you know" having its applications? This is the "what you know" part.
As mentioned last week, fiction doesn't need to be constrained to the subject matter of a memoir, and research is a wonderful thing, but there's nothing quite like firsthand insight well shared, so it's a good idea to be consciously aware of where your personal experience strengths are.
This seems like a no-brainer, but if you're a new writer who isn't looking to write memoirs, chances are good you're a young bookworm, attracted to fiction by the promise of escaping from reality (not saying that's a bad thing), and you've probably been told dismissively by people in all corners of your life how completely you lack life experience, and maybe you've started to believe it.
As cool as it can be to read fiction with authentic, intensive detail on exotic locations or unique and extreme personal trials, you do not need to be a globe-trotting septuagenarian to have collected real life observations worth sharing.
Know what yours are.
For example, a few of my more useful life experiences include:
Being female (I share this experience with 51% of the human population, but by media representation you’d think we’re freakin’ unicorns, so I consider it one of my top ones).
Going to college.
Working in a coffee shop.
Working in a cell phone store.
Working in an office.
Struggling with disordered eating.
Surviving a textbook emotionally abusive relationship.
Having a happy relationship.
Planning a wedding.
Having my particular parents (every family has its own weirdness to share).
Having a sister.
Living in LA.
Driving across the US and back.
Being part of an intense teen clique of big personalities.
Spending seven years in theater.
Getting a middle ear infection, a broken rib, heat stroke, and a fever that gave me hallucinations (not all at once).
Being in Girl Scouts
Being in Venturers
Studying music, needlecraft, cooking, woodshop, horseback riding, and camping skills (with far from equal proficiency).
Having pets. Lots of them.
As you can see, some of these have to do with travel, work, and aging. Some don't. Some are positive, some negative. Some could be said of large chunks of the present-day US population, others are pretty unusual. Some are recent, most occurred by the time I was eighteen.
The point is, no matter who you are, if you're big enough to use a keyboard, you've already experienced things that someone else hasn't. And even if every single other person on earth had, by having experienced it yourself, you have the power as a writer to present it as you see it, rather than as the research you would otherwise be wise to depend on sees it.
I recommend keeping a similar list to remind yourself that there are in fact things to write that you do know. Highlight the experiences you'd most like to write about that you haven't found the right fictional context for yet. Don't force them, but the next time you're pressed for an idea, or to add a dimension to a beginning of an idea, check your list and see if something clicks into place.
Plus, when there's an opportunity to add an item to the list without taking too much time and energy from writing itself, having an actual list to add to is a good reminder and incentive to go for it.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!