Write what you know—it’s the advice freely handed out when you indicate a wish to write. It’s not followed by teachers giving creative writing assignments or even college professors who want a 10 page paper by Monday. While I think it’s helpful to start out with what you know, if everyone adhered to this advice, the number of fiction books would dwindle greatly—especially the fantasy, sci-fi- and paranormal genres. The murder mystery genre would fade and the books that remained might have you questioning whether you really wanted to stand close enough to have the author sign your book.
My writing today is all about being cold and stuck, two subjects that I know well as my last three weeks have been spent indoors, trapped by snow and black ice. The lack of movement and the relentless weather is also causing a stuckness in my emotional state. Not going anywhere, not doing anything, not even aware of what I would want to do if I weren’t stuck.
So I’m rolling what I know into what I write, hoping that I can write both my character and myself into, and then out of, Stuck. It’s working for Barry, the main character in my novel, Road of Polished Stones. Barry’s leads and his funds have run out; it’s almost Christmas; it’s raining and cold; and he is alone. Without a guiding clue, all the roads seem the same--they could be anywhere in the world and go anywhere for all the use they are to Barry. His mind is fixed on its singular quest to find his father and now that he has fruitlessly explored all the possibilities in this place, he is really and truly stuck.
Barry will have options—I will write a few for him and he will take one of them, because that’s what you can do when you write fiction. Barry won’t be stuck anymore; he will go on to have more adventures, meet other people, experience conflict and drama. As for myself, I’m not as facile with creating options and then acting on one of them, delivering myself out of Stuck and into the movement of the world. But, I keep writing and one of these days, I will write myself right out of Stuck.
I write for a newspaper. I write to tell stories that might otherwise be forgotten. I write to process my world..