Thursday, April 17, 2014

write what you know unless...

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A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Which means that I should be able to write an entire book about wearing a fake moustache as a unibrow. But the extent of the story behind that silly picture up there is that I was celebrating a friend's 30th birthday and there were fake moustaches scattered about. Because drinking whilst wearing a fake moustache is tricking, I opted to wear mine as a unibrow. End of story.

And then I heard something last week that totally changed the way I thought about writing. And it made total sense to me. Sir Salman Rushdie visited the university where I work, and I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of his sessions with a class. One student asked if he had any advice for young writers, to which he replied:

"Write what you know unless you don't know anything interesting."

It's crossed my mind many times, as it has many bloggers {or so I've gathered from some of your posts}, to write a book. Some of you have written books, others of you are in the process and still others - like me - have visions of a successfully published novel but have scraped every idea that's floated around your brain. Or you can't remember the great idea you had in the middle of the night while battling insomnia. Oh, that's just me. Damn. Well, I've written some doozies at 3 a.m. believe you me.

Perhaps my problem is that I'm heeding bad advice. The advice given to every writer - write what you know. But the thing is, I'm no Carrie Bradshaw. My life isn't a series of fabulous outfits and men with adjectives for nicknames. My life is a series of outfits worn most notably by 15-year-old boys {I'm a big fan of t-shirts and jeans, remember} and a redhead named Shawn, who does have a noteworthy wit but prefers to keep a low profile.

Rushdie went on to say that some of the best novels were completely made up. Mark Twain was not Huckleberry Finn. F. Scott Fitzgerald was not The Great Gatsby. Certainly there are a number of real things that inspire or influence writers, not the least of which is a thirst for knowledge and understanding of something they know nothing about.

What I took away from Rushdie's statement was that to tell a compelling story, sometimes you have to make shit up. Or embellish the truth. Or figure out what interests you, learn everything you can about that interesting thing and then share you new found knowledge in an interesting way. At this rate, I'm either going to have to become addicted to something weird like computer duster or talk to dudes on death row. I have weird interests. I blame Intervention and every crime show ever made.

But what makes writers so great is that they are able to tell stories in interesting and intriguing ways. Duh. And that takes practice. And ah-ha-moment-worthy advice from the great Sir Salman Rushdie, who is proof that the pen is much, much mightier than the sword. 

10 comments:

Kaity said...

I really like this. I would so love to publish a book someday, but haven't quite figured out my story yet. Someday... :)

Miss Chelsea said...

I mustache you a question....

=)

Lauren Elizabeth said...

I love this! Such great advice!

Because of Jackie said...

YES. Writing about everyday life is not that interesting, but if we put a spin on it, and add details (humor helps me, and honesty), I think all of us can be great writers. Now how do we get that book deal????;)

BNM said...

wow I really loved this post!!! So true. I used to make up stories when I was a kid and make books, wonder if I could do it now lol

Cheri @ Overactive Blogger said...

I really like this post! I try to be as honest as possible in my posts, and if I don't have anything interesting to say, I try to take a little break!

Jamie Vespa said...

Seriously, I have ideas floating around my brain for novels and I just can't ever seem to get a good flow going. Writing what I know isn't exactly easy... I live a pretty laid back, low key life.

~*Night Owl*~ said...

If I had to write a book that would be one long ass book. j/s

Just letting you know I'm following you. Would love to have you come check me out and hopefully follow me back http://nightowlventing02.blogspot.com/2014/04/have-you-asked-him.html

SarahChristineStyle said...

Love this, I most definitely have had the fantasy dreams of being published someday, but every idea that pops into my head gets quickly kicked right back out for some reason or another. One of these days maybe...

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