‘Write What You Know’ Doesn’t mean ‘Write What You Know’ (and I’m over the moon about this)

The above is actual footage of me losing it during medication time in my old job when I was a ward sister (or deputy ward manager in the modern naughties) on a psychiatric ward. Not really! The photo is from the WordPress free photo library (thank you).

Ever since I had to give up nursing (sad face) and start writing (YAY!), there are certain phrases, questions and instructions that us writers often hear. And when I say hear, I mean roll our eyes and get bored with.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about this month, in my writerly ramblings post. Thank you for joining me, and yes, I know I made that word up…

WHY DON’T YOU WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW?’ 

Me: ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!

Fortunately, my mature student adventure of my Creative Writing degree has taught me that when ‘they’ ask ‘Why don’t you write what you know?’ In true expert literary terms does not mean ‘Write what you know about (in the sense of I used to be a nurse, so write about nursing)’ No, this means, write about what you know as a human being, use your senses, your imagination and your memory. This will help you with your descriptions, your characters, everything. I mean what you can see, taste, feel… what you can create.

THE ABOVE IS WHAT YOU KNOW AS A WRITER.

THRILLER WRITERS HAVE NOT COMMITED MURDER IN ORDER TO WRITE ABOUT IT.

HILARY MANTEL WAS NOT ALIVE DURING TUDOR TIMES YET SHE WAS ABLE TO IMAGINE ENOUGH TO EXPERTLY WRITE ABOUT THEM.

RICHARD ADAMS WAS NOT A RABBIT, YET IF YOU’VE READ WATERSHIP DOWN YOU WILL HAVE FELT LIKE YOU’VE LIVED IN A WARREN. 

I do hope that has cleared things up for those of you who insist on asking those questions to myself and other writers.

This is not to say that I may have drawn on my experiences of psychiatric nursing to write a short story for my degree (one that I got 92% for btw)

Happy writing, Samantha xx

PS Join me next month for my writerly rambling about character names – I feel a guest post series coming on!

 

 

On Achieving a Distinction in The Creative Writing Module of My Degree.

Hello everyone, and thank you for joining me on my monthly ‘writerly ramblings’ blog post., (yes I made that word up!)

Yesterday, I was thrilled to bits to receive an overall score of 82% in the creative writing module of my degree. I have no words, I have regained my self-worth.

Achievable, I would say because I am studying with the Open University. The teaching and support is first class. I don’t need to leave my house. I only work when I feel up to it, (I have to pace myself ALL the time because of fatigue). I can turn the computer off if I get a headache, or if my eyes start hurting, and so on. I won’t go on about MS, you won’t meet two people who have the condition with the same symptoms, and impetuously worded conversations around it can become rather tiresome.*

When I was forced to give up nursing six years ago due to having MS, I went through a very difficult time. This is part of my (non-fiction) story.  When I started writing ‘full-time’ an ex-colleague commented ‘If you can do that, why can’t you still work?’ Not the case, and not the point either, it was not my decision to leave work, and it was not my fault that I have this chronic condition.

You can see why I am nervous about celebrating my good news, but the point I am trying to make is, this is me now. There is hope, it is possible to dig yourself out of a hole, and if you happen to be reading this post because you have searched ‘writing inspiration’ then I am saying to you ‘JUST GO FOR IT’. Writing will give you SO MUCH.

Writing for me is not just a case of my legs don’t work like they used to so now I have to do something different. I write because I love it. I love reading, I love escaping into a different world and I love that I can write and escape into another world too. And I am studying writing because my husband (correctly) suggested ‘why don’t you learn your trade?’

I write because it feels like this is what I should be doing.

Getting a good result has been an added bonus, I have learnt so much during this module which will hopefully feature in further blog posts – in particular, that ‘writing what you know, doesn’t mean writing what you know (about)’. That blew my mind, and I was very pleased to learn it. I don’t think J K Rowling knew about how to be an eleven-year-old wizard, and Stephen King did not know how to be a menstrual teenager but they still wrote about what they could see, smell, taste, imagine etc – this is what you know – AS A HUMAN.

On reflection, I have learnt that I am ‘safe’ in my writing style, this is what I’ll be working on next – although I cannot promise any sex scenes in my series Curmudgeon Avenue!

I must also add to why I am able to ‘achieve’; I am in a good place, I have an amazing, supportive husband not only in what he says but he makes life easy for me. Doing the shopping, the garden, walking the dog, anything. My daughter is the funniest person I know and, she has grown up! She has a fab job and lives with her lovely boyfriend. (in other words, I don’t have small children to look after!)

Edna and Genevieve cover_000Featured Image -- 1533This is the Curmudgeon Avenue series

 

Happy reading and writing everybody! Samantha xx

PS, the picture is from WordPress’ free photo library, I have a while to go before I graduate. 🙂