A couple of days ago I wrote a post about the perils of “writing what you know”. Today I will explain why I think writing about what you know, is a good idea. (Aaaah, the fickleness of the female heart!) At least, when it comes to feelings. Observing them well, is like digging up gold for a writer.
I’ve listed up four reasons to stick to writing about feelings you’ve actually experienced. Or at least witnessed from the front row.
Writing about feelings is very much like writing about sex when you’re a virgin. People who have some experience with it, will see right through you. If your favorite hobby is speleology, than you probably don’t have a clue what claustrophobia really feels like. So if you want to write about it, please, don’t guess. At least talk to someone who suffers from it. Or better yet: write about something else.
Why did so many women like Fifty Shades of Grey? Because E.L. James wrote something that genuinly made her horny, and as it turned out, she was not the only one. Whatever you’re feeling, chances are you’re not the only one either. Most people (enough to make a decent audience) know fear, jealousy, anger, guilt, longing and of course love. And really, nobody’s love is that different from yours, whatever Isabel Allende tries to tell you. A lot of people are scared of the same things, feel guilty about the same things, dream of the same things, even if you wouldn’t expect it. And they’ll love it if you hit the spot.
Find what is hidden
If you closely observe both your own and others’ feelings, especially the ones that are tucked away as soon as possible, you get a surprise now and then. Usually it’s not a pretty one. It’s that small itch of jealousy because your daughter is younger and prettier than you are. It’s that annoyance when your sweet old grandma asks you for something. It’s the tiny attraction with you wife’s sister. Those feelings, you try to deny or at least hide, they are pretty universal too. And they are pure gold for a writer.
If you like a good thriller, you will love to write something that scares you. If you’re dreaming of a great love, you will enjoy writing exactly what you’re longing for. Writing whatever YOU want to read, whatever gets YOU excited, is a lot more fun than guessing what somebody else might like and spending the next two years on something that doesn’t get you hot or cold. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, being happy?