Writers experience conflicts with writing what they know as opposed to charting new territory for fresh ideas and inspiration, but it is apparent that most writers will return to writing what they know as it is an inherent part of almost any writing activity.
Many writers have been told repeatedly to write what you know, and it can be a good place to start for a writer, but it has its drawbacks like anything else as it can quickly
Compartmentalize a writer. If a writer continually chooses the same or related topics, it can become a worn out process, and limit a writer as well as bore them.
Expanding possibilities beyond what you know is a stepping out of the box, and it can open the doors to writing freedom. Many times the fear of going beyond what you know in writing is because of lack of experience and qualifications, but innumerable writers move beyond that fear and are writing in areas that really interest, excite and impassion them.
There are always exceptions to writing what you know, as in the case of authors who are affiliated with a particular vocation or subject matter. Writers like Louis L’Amour,
a western aficionado, turned out similar fictionalized western stories in a voluminous fashion, and John Grisham, a former lawyer has written several books in relation to the courtroom and prevailing justice.
As with seasoned writers like John Grisham, writing what you know can provide you with needed background to build upon story development (setting, plot, theme, characters, etc.) Even with limited knowledge, it is possible to create an interesting story line, as what you know can be used to infuse sufficient conflict and other elements into a narrative to turn it from an ordinary account to an extraordinary account. There is always availability to factual information through research, so what you already know can be built upon and utilized in a narrative.
In comparison, writing about what you don’t know can bring a writer into uncharted and exciting areas of exploration which can lead to investigations outside of what you know, and can add to a writer’s inventiveness with different themes, settings and plots. The more a writer goes beyond his own expertise, the more his creative aspects are refueled as well as challenged.
Many writers know much more than they realize. Just general knowledge about people, life and the whole scheme of things can bring numerous resources forward to utilize in writing. Whether it is characterization or other aspects of narrative, innate resources can be drawn from and used to create characters. What you know in the innate sense can be drawn upon to fashion something totally opposite of what you would normally utilize in a narrative. If you need to develop a heinous character, you can draw from what you innately know about evil in general.
What you know about the lives and character traits of those around you should be of limited use in narratives. You do not want the characteristics of those you know to overshadow and dominate your story. Create your own characters and perhaps pick and choose a few traits of a friend, relative, acquaintance or even yourself to add to your character development. This kind of strategy will enable you to develop and control the interactions and relationships of the characters within the story.
Technically a writer really does write about what he knows as it is a base that he operates from and continually returns to for comfort and rejuvenation. The idea is to garner strength from what you do know as an author and carry it through to new and different writing ventures. The thought is always in mind that the writer can return to home base when he requires refreshment and go out again for further exploration and discovery. Writing what you know is a part of every writer, whether an accomplished novelist or a novice, and it becomes a mainstay of a writer’s bag of resources.
Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction, Geraldine Books has commented on writing what you know. As it is stated here, she has used it as a resource.
“Write what you know. Every guide for the aspiring author advises this. Because I live in a long-settled rural place, I know certain things. I know the feel of a newborn lamb’s damp, tight-curled fleece and the sharp sound a well-bucket chain makes as it scrapes on stone. But more than these material things, I know the feelings that flourish in small communities. And I know other kinds of emotional truths that I believe apply across the centuries.”