Write what you know but, what do you know?
Isn’t that what we are told? To be a good writer you must write what you know… but… what do we know?
I know a lot of things that people don’t know I know. From looking at me you may think, “She don’t know squat about squat.”
You probably don’t know I can write about Post Traumatic Stress at great length because I spent almost twenty years working in policing. I know what it’s like to be part of an investigation into the brutal murder of a child. I know what it’s like to feel cold sweat trickling down your back when the terrorists attacked New York city and planes began landing in this province. I know what it’s like to want to run home and protect your children because you think it’s the start of world war three. I also know what it’s like to have to stay and do your job because that is what you are trained to do. I know a lot about the guilt a working mother drags behind her everyday.
I know about the traumas of being raised by a parent who was a paranoid schizophrenic who medicated with alcohol. I know what it’s like to never be allowed to discuss your home situation with anyone because mental health issues were not discussed back then.
I know what it’s like to have the police inform you your brother died by suicide and what it’s like to call his children and let them know. I know what it is like to sit a remembrance mass every Christmas with other families who are trying to make sense of why their loved one took their own life.
But what do I know? I know what it’s like to hold your mother’s hand until it goes weak and life leaves her body. I know what it’s like to be orphaned at fifty years old and feel like you’re alone in the world.
As a mother I know what it’s like to bring life into the world and nurture your babies until they grow into adults. I know what it’s like to watch your child soar, achieve their dreams and find their happiness. I know what it’s like to put the needs of your child before your own and thank God each night for their health when you watch your friends go through incredible loss.
What do I know?
I know as I age, I am becoming incredibly passionate about saving the planet, banning plastics, and leaving my grandchildren clean oceans, fresh air and thriving forests. I know I’m no longer willing to sit through racist jokes, intolerance towards minority groups or being belittled because I am female.
As a writer, I know I am not Shakespeare, but I also know I never claimed to be. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there and capture your thoughts on paper or even make them make sense sometimes. I know what I write will not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok. I know it takes a lot of guts to ask someone to read your work and critique it. It takes even more guts to listen to the critique. I know what it is like to send your work to a publisher and wait for the response. I know what it’s like when an agent in Toronto tells you you’re “Too local” to appeal to a “Mainland audience.” I know what it’s like to feel like you’re hitting your head of a wall and wonder why you even pursued this dream in the first place.
I also know what it’s like to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and register for a good writing class and start over.
It’s true. To be a good writer, you must write what you know. But what do you know?