I keep coming across this phrase – write what you know. When I have come face to face with this saying in the past I have always thought that if this were so many pieces of literature would not exist. Yet now, when I am being taken into new territory within my novel, I find myself wondering about the validity of my setting. The date is August 3rd, 1914 and Germany has just declared war on France. I have thankfully never survived war, and know very little about it, so what am I doing writing about it, I ask myself.
I am not following the men to war, I am staying home, pregnant, waiting. I will suffer loss and anguish, and these are things I do know about. When I look back at all that I have wrote, some have been very familiar, others not so, but it is always the responses and emotions that are true.
The other day my three year old daughter told me that when we buy a new TV she wants one without a screen so that she can go into the Wizard of Oz. I was stunned by this statement, amazed at how vivid the movie is for her, even though is it so far from her reality. This brings me back to the emotions within the movie: the unknown, discovery, fear, the need for safety and home – things that are all very real for a three year old loosening her ties to mama and dada. She empathizes with Dorothy, and I think this is what counts in then end – empathy.
I realized that writing is not only about what we do know, sometimes it is about what we don’t know, but it is also about discovery.