“Write about what you know about.”
If you’re a writer, or even a want-to-be writer, chances are you’ve heard that advice. Is it true? Well, yes… And no… And yes, but…
Certainly, you cannot expound on a subject about which you know little. Or even just some, but not that much. Nor can you write on a topic where your knowlege is limited to internet info. You truly do need to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know a good bit more than the readers, why would they want to read your writing? Just being interested in a topic is not enough. You need to be an expert.
If we try to limit our writing to our own experiences, most of us will quickly run out of writable topics. And too often we end up with an article or book of limited interest. You may have a pile of illustrations and zingers for a book on A Defense of Divorce and the Jerk I Married, but what’s in that for the reader? You may be an expert on your article, “My gallbladder Surgery and How I Suffered,” but who will read it? Likely even your own family is tired of hearing that story. Just because it is a true experience doesn’t mean it should be published.
Yes, write about what you know about. But here is the great thing: You can know about anything that is really important to you. How? Read. Talk to experts. Experience. Interview. Go and see.
When I first started writing about social injustice and the role Christians can and should play globally, my passport had exactly one stamp in it–England. My family and I had gone there for a special two-week family vacation. The number of trafficked children or exploited women we encountered was exactly zero. But then I started doing some writing for a mission organization called Partners International. I learned so much! I met Michele Rickett, too, president and founder of Sisters in Service. I learned still more! Then Michele and I took a trip together and I conducted interviews in India and China. Oh, my, how much I learned. Now Michele and I have written two books together for InterVarsity Press: Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution and Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage. I know what I’m talking about, too. I’ve made certain of that.
So the answer is…. YES. Write about what you know about. NO. Just because you know about something doesn’t mean it necessarily should be written. YES, BUT… Your writing possibilities are not limited to your sphere of knowledge. If you want to know about something, do what it takes to become an expert. Then get to work and write.
A sweet girl in Mali, Africa.
She faces so many tough challenges in her young life, but the possibilites are there.
Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage
by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett
“I want to tell the world, please stop fighting. Please, everyone get along.
10-year-old Lydia, Sudan