Writing What You Know

Can we real­ly write any­thing that we don’t know? It is pos­si­ble to con­vey any­thing about an expe­ri­ence we have nev­er had? Can a writer effec­tive­ly imag­ine the unlived aspects of life by extrap­o­lat­ing from what she has lived?

I have always wres­tled with these burn­ing ques­tions, always car­ried them about like a cross on my ago­niz­ing, uphill cre­ative jour­ney. My ideas felt so expan­sive, but my own life was so nar­row, so lim­it­ed. If I can only write what I know, then my prose will always be as nar­row as my bor­ing life, and I know I am bet­ter than that. I didn’t real­ly want to kill him, but how could I pos­si­bly go any far­ther as a writer if I didn’t know what it was like to put a knife into a man?

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