Writers are advised by editors, agents, academic and self-appointed experts to write about what they know. Some people have pointed out that would be boring. As writers we live in a world of imagination. Some tend to exaggerate, or have a quirky point of view, but many of us simply wonder what’s beyond the known world. We daydream, pay close attention to and analyze our sensory experience, and experiment with ideas. In other words, we go beyond the bounds of ordinary existence. In a way our characters are avatars for ourselves as we explore a made-up world, one created from what we know and what we are curious to know.
When I wrote Miami Morning, I broke the rule on writing what you know. Instead, I was fascinated by what I could learn about topics that were new to me. As I wrote, for instance, I was challenged, just as my main character was by how little I knew about the lives of moderately and severely disabled people.
I’d been inspired to write about this subject through my participation in a group that included disability advocates and therapists, some of them also persons with disabilities. But I soon realized that I needed to do more research. With suggestions from a member of the group, and my own thoughts, I searched online for information. I was amazed at the depth and breadth of articles, photographs, blogs and videos on this subject, worldwide, and going back in time.
I was in new territory, and yet, as a human being, I realized that I was on familiar ground. I have suffered from disabling illness for periods of time, and I’ve known someone disabled in an accident. The disabled are part of the narrative of ordinary life. We are all in fact part of the same narrative, that of physically and mentally embodied human beings. I had crossed the border into what I didn’t know only to find myself.
In my book, so to speak, it’s okay to write what you don’t know, as long as you make every effort to come to know it. Whether you write paranormal fiction, historical fiction, mysteries or horror stories, you may only be going into the unknown to find yourself there.