Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rethinking "Write What You Know"

Whenever I log in to the blog for a new post, I like to see which older posts have been viewed and what our "all-time" top entries are. One of our most popular entries is one entitled "Write What You Know", which originally premiered on October 20, 2008 and was re-posted last August 27, 2012. You can link to those entries by clicking the dates, but before you do, I wanted to share something else about the idea of "what you know" that has been brewing in my mind for the past few days.

Students often are told "write what you know", which seems simple enough, but a number of young playwrights in our workshops feel pressured by this advice. Sometimes they want to write about a topic, an event, place, or person that they know very little about. This knowledge can be gained by a little reading and research, of course. However, one thing that I always ask young writers to keep in mind is that, even if it is based in reality, or history, what they are writing is also a piece of fiction. That fiction stems from their imagination (something that we don't often connect with knowledge) and I believe that if you can imagine it, then you know it. An example of this may be with a science-fiction, or fantasy play. That world exists in a writer's mind and the writer needs to know a lot about it and how it works in order to accurately share it with an audience. Again, the advice is "write what you know", but a little less pressure involved.

Not everyone wants to write a sci-fi/fantasy play, of course. No matter what the genre, it is helpful for playwrights to know about themselves - their background, sure, but also things that spark their imaginations and emotions. The older posts that I have linked above include a self-reflection tool that our young playwrights have found useful when first thinking about their plays, or looking for some inspiration during revision. Give it a look and see what ideas might be sparked in you as you begin, or continue, your writing.

We can't wait to see the results...

Happy writing!

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