Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On writing what you know

Writers often hear the admonition to “write what you know,” which means if you grew up in the rural south, it’s probably not a good idea to write a coming of age story set in Manhattan. Of course, given our access to information these days, via the worldwide web, our ability to reach outside our usual parameters has been greatly expanded.

That is not the kind of “write what you know” I’m talking about.

I write organically. This means I don’t sit down and plot out a 300 page novel before I write it. I may have an idea before I start about a few things, but I take to heart the advice of novelist, Terry Kay, who says, “We don’t write to tell a story; we write to discover a story.

When I’m writing, I may not know what’s going to happen next in Chapter One, but I may already see what’s going to happen somewhere near the end of the book, maybe Chapter Twenty-Seven, so I write that. I write what I know.

I write the next thing I’m thinking about, the very next thing that’s coming to me.

I hear writers say they don’t know what to write, that they’re stuck. But, you writers know something. It may be a small, a seemingly inconsequential thing―write that. And you will find that when you do, a door may open to an entirely different thought. I believe writers get stuck, because they don’t write what they know.

In fact, we sometimes push those thoughts out of our mind, determined to get the next step in what we’ve determined should be a linear progression. Forget linear. Piece it together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You don’t put a puzzle together in a linear way, you work with the pieces that fit, and then you find more that fit. Approach your writing like that. Work with the pieces that fit. Again, I say it. Write what you know.

The life of faith is very similar isn’t it? We take one step in the light that we have. We don’t get the whole story. God doesn’t give us an outline for our entire life, but He does give us a Guidebook (Bible), and a Guide (Holy Spirit).
Sometimes that next step can feel like a detour and appear to have nothing to do with where we think we should be going, but God knows how the pieces fit together, and He knows what the story of our lives should be about.
With Him, we may prayerfully find the next step in this great adventure of life.

“Direct my footsteps according to your word . . .” (Psalm 119:133).



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