When I was younger and still in middle school doing language arts there was a story in our textbook that was about a boy who was a passionate writer and wrote a composition that gave him the opportunity to meet a famous author along with other kids. When the author read his story, she(yes, the author was a woman) told him that she liked his story the best of all because he wrote about what he knew. She said the basis of every good writer is to write about what you know.
At that age where I wrote nothing but fantasy I rolled my eyes, but as an adult I reflect and realize that there was no better advice given. Even the fantasies that I write are based on things that have happened in my life.
I realized that I had looked down on my life experiences as a good foundation for a story and writing now I realize that it’s the best foundation anyone could be ever given.
It’s tempting to write about experiences we don’t truly understand and throw up generic stories about what’s popular. But they always lack something…heart. When Angie Thomas wrote “The Hate U Give” she wrote from what she knew of the world. White authors who have tried in the past to explore the black experience in America have always fallen short and lately been widely critiqued for trying to whitewash the black experience.
So writing about what you know is also a form of respect. Because other people’s stories are other people’s stories. They will tell them eventually. When I was younger, the majority of my leads were white because that’s the system that I grew up knowing. White people and light skin people being the main character. But now I’m able to explore my writing in more depth and with more knowledge because they’re all somehow based on me and my experiences.
And considering that we’re living in a world that’s trying to be more inclusive, we need to be braver in telling our stories. Because no one can tell my story better than me right.
Which may sound conceited but have you ever experienced what it’s like when someone says something about you and they’re way off? How many girls have been labelled sluts and dehumanized because other people wanted to define their experience? Also the entire black race, white, eurocentric colonizers defined what we were centuries ago and we are suffering the repurcassions of those definitions until today. It’s only now that our stories are being validated somewhat but it’s still a long way to go.
And as I write this I’m supposed to be concentrating on my novel dammit😑