Almost every writer who is looking for advice and guidance at some point comes across this old bit of wisdom: write what you know. But what does that saying mean? What is it telling writers to do? And where did it originate? I would really like to know. If any of you reading this have any opinions or information about this maxim, please offer it.
Since all writing emerges from each writer, it seems self-evident that something of what we know goes into the writing. Does it mean, however, that we should only write about that with which we are very familiar? That approach is extremely limiting and would eliminate all speculative fiction of any kind, including science fiction, fantasy, gothic, horror, and post-apocalyptic since those are worlds that we, as writers, are creating.
It also seems that if we take the saying literally that it would inhibit imagination, which I would argue is the most essential characteristic for writers. We need to be able to see and create worlds that do not exist, even in the most realistic of literary fiction.
So, again, I am left with the question of what does this adage mean, and is it useful for writers?