Hello, fellow scribes!
We meet again.
Today, I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while because I just now (after years and years) got it. All you have to do to be a good writer is write what you know.
I know what you’re going to say:
I’m an astronaut!
I only know about space related things like physics,
I can’t write about anything else because I don’t know about anything else.
You would be wrong!
If the idiom “write what you know” was limited to vocation
Or even avocation…
(By which I clearly mean dressing your cat up like White Snake)
We would not have a lot to read:
It would just be an exchange of information, and that’s boring. If we just wanted to sit around and exchange information all day then phone books wouldn’t have died out. We want something more out of what we read, so how do we put it into what we write?
According to J.D. Salinger you need to have fire
between the words.
Consider Catcher in the Rye, what is that story about, really?
Catcher in the Rye is about a boy named Holden Caulfield who is kicked out of his latest prep school and decides to run away to New York before his parents find out what has happened.
Is that what the book is really about?
Would this book be as popular as it is if it was just about a rich kid afraid to go home and face the music? Would the rest of us relate to Holden if that were the case?
Here is the secret to Catcher in the Rye and the many many books out there that we all hold beloved…
It is the ability to reach out across the void and see the kindred spirit in the other, be it elephant, dog or that other person across from you on the bus.
How do you take what you know and make it so it matters to everyone?
Let everyone see your heart.
We have all been in love:
We all know about war.
We are all going to die.
(Thanks David Haglun, I died a little bit inside too when I found out about the movie.)
The human experience is vast and there is so much to say about it.
(Or you can just read ANYTHING by Shakespeare!)
Being able to tell us all your fears, for example, about love, death or war brings us closer to you the author, and more importantly, it brings us all a little bit closer because we share an understand of the other person.
Just remember a good writer has empathy, even if that author happens to be an astronaut.
I’ll leave you with Holden telling us all what makes a good author:
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
How about you? Where do you find your empathy?
Caitlin was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She still lives there, and this makes her a rare unicorn in a sea of transplanted twenty-somethings who came to be artists and drink cheap beer. Also, she is now in her 30s and has moved on to Bourbon. She is a current MFA candidate in fiction at Antioch University LA. She has been published here and there with the last one being in Chiasmus Press’ Stories from the Edge: A Northwest Anthology.