A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire…
Write What You Know
Much of what I know for sure is mom knowledge. As a college senior, I directed Our Town, coaching Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb to pantomime making breakfast believably. Decades later, as I move through my familiar morning choreography—emptying the dishwasher, grinding coffee, feeding the pets—I realize I’ve been tending to my own family for more than twenty years. There is a lot of knowledge stored in my mom muscle memory. What I know as a mom enhances what I know as a writer: show, don’t tell; choose strong verbs; mix up sentence patterns. Write what I know.
I know a lot about loading and unloading the dishwasher. Sorting silverware annoys me, but I don’t mind placing glasses on the shelf. I like hanging mugs from hooks.
I know the right dosage of Pediacare for my son without squinting at the tiny chart. I fill up the plastic cup. My son hates the grape flavor and requires a chaser of cold water.
Here’s what else I know:
There’s always more laundry to do and never enough time to write.
I’m the best in our family at locating lost possessions. I’m the one who discovers the missing library book, the soccer jersey, the list of what to take to school on Wednesday. This is knowledge born of desperation.
I know too much about avoiding conflict, making nice, overlooking a curt tone or a cutting glance. I am my mother’s daughter: peace at all costs. This is not necessarily the healthiest motto, but it’s the one I live. I hate being at odds. I want to skip the messy drama and get to the resolution. I wonder if that’s true in my writing, too? Do I skim over the agonizing bits to be finished? I don’t think so. As a reader, I am suspicious of the bow tied brightly around all the loose ends of the story because that’s not how life goes.
I understand that I write to make sense, to figure out what I think or feel. In my school, there’s a big push to teach coding to prepare girls with the computer science skills they need in a technologically complex future. For me, writing is coding. I am looking for the patterns, testing, solving different kinds of equations.
My writing gets chucked when there are other pressing duties—though I write each morning pretty much without fail, there are mornings when I do fail. And some mornings, to call what I scrawl writing would be a stretch.
Worrying is a habit that is of little use.
The fuchsia rocket roses in our backyard make me joyful.
I’m nicer when I write.
As a little girl, I spun elaborate stories of orphans in mysterious circumstances. What I knew was derived from fiction; it was what I knew. Now, I’ve substituted life experience for longing. I write what I know.
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