One of the first pieces of advice I had ever gotten was 'write what you know.' I'm sure many of you guys have probably gotten the same advice yourself. It's good advice to a certain extent, but it can also be very limiting to your potential.
Starting out, 'write what you know' is legitatmite advice. Grounding yourself in reality and developing your eye (how you see the world) is critical in improving your craft. By training yourself to be present in your surroundings, you're able to be create visceral scenes through the use of words.
But if you only limit yourself to reconstructing reality, you will limit yourself by containing your creativity. So what to do? Well, with your developed eye and a dash of imagination, you can then train yourself to be present in your mind. And if there's something you don't know, you do research until you become knowledgeable. Thus, reality acts as a springboard for something else.
That's not to say that reality and writing what you know is not imaginative. With a unique perspective, sometimes the most imaginative things can be right in front of you.
To quote Shakespeare in Hamlet, 'Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.' I like to think of writing what you know and writing what you don't know as a method for madness.
When inspiration strikes, via reality or in your own imagination, that is considered madness, and only when you apply a method to it can it be translated across the page. If you don't like that saying, then perhaps bringing chaos to order will resonate with you.
I am writing this post merely as an observation of my own experience with what I've written. When I started with M1, I stuck to reality, contemporary if you will. I didn't finish it. I got bored. Then I was hit with inspiration of another realm, and I wrote M2, and I'm still in love with that story. It challenged me creatively, and that's when I realized it's okay not to write what you know, because it's the process of figuring it out and learning your way through that makes the journey worthwhile and exciting.
Now I'm writing M3, going back to contemporary. This time, however, it's loosley inspired by my time in high school and the people I've known throughout the years. But it's also an issues book on body dysmorphia and self-worth, something that I struggled with a lot in my college years and something my main protagonist will go through in the span of a year. In a lot of ways, M3 is harder than writing M2 because I'm writing through personal experiences rather than imaginative inspiration.
I've been rereading a lot of my old journals, which really makes me shy away from writing sometimes because somehow I feel myself transplanted right back to my adolescent years. Not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is, M3 will definitely be more of a struggle to finish, but somehow I think I'll get a lot of meaning out of it.
How about you? Where does your inspiration come from your current WIP?
This post was in participation of ISWG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating this awesome group and this week's co-hosts: Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!