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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Writing Craft

The Importance of Writing from Experience
• Indiana Lee

Mark Twain famously said to “write what you know.” While the timeless author didn’t necessarily always follow his own rule, it’s a good piece of advice to keep in mind whether you’re just getting started as a writer, or you’re a seasoned veteran that has hit a roadblock.


Far too often, writers think they need to create something so unique that they sacrifice a good story in favor of standing out. And, it works for some people. Some of the most popular books in the world are about fantasy worlds and things that could never really happen. But, even in those stories, articles, and blogs, there is a seed of reality.

As an author, you will undoubtedly put some aspect of yourself into whatever you’re writing. But, why not write more fully about your own experiences? Showing that kind of vulnerability and insight in what you write can really keep a reader’s attention. Not only is writing from a more personal standpoint often therapeutic, but you’re more likely to be passionate about it. Additionally, readers may see themselves more clearly in your words or characters.

Writing from experience can help you burst through struggles of “writer’s block” or feeling uninspired. In the current state of the country, writing what you know can also help to give you an outlet, reduce your stress, and develop healthier habits to fuel your work.

If you need some inspiration or pointers to get started, or you have a hard time showing vulnerability through your writing, read on to learn about why it’s so important and how you can bring your experiences to life on each page.

A Story for Everyone

When you write what you know, you’re more likely to connect with readers because your story will undoubtedly be more realistic. And, chances are you’re not the only one who has experienced or felt certain things.

Just like in movies and on television, people want to see themselves in the stories they love. They want to feel like they are a part of it, or can relate to it somehow.

So, if your writing caters to a large audience, one of the best things you can do is to write about your personal experience(s) amidst something many people have to deal with. A perfect example at the moment is the COVID-19 pandemic.

This pandemic has impacted almost everyone’s lives in some way. It has caused issues like:

  1. Job loss
  2. Health concerns
  3. The transition to remote learning
  4. Financial problems
  5. Social isolation

The pandemic has also impacted the way people travel. For months, borders across the country were closed and airline industries were all but halted completely. If you’re typically a frequent traveler, you’re not alone. The number of people flying has been continuously growing, with 1 billion passengers traveling the globe in 2018 alone. But, COVID-19 has changed travel plans for many and has others looking for alternative methods of transportation. If you’ve been impacted in that way, too, why not create a unique story about traveling the country via train or finding peace on a long road trip in a vintage RV?

You could also write about your experiences with the social justice movements that have been happening throughout the country, or even a role you might have played in the political arena. By connecting what you know with what people are currently talking about, you’re more likely to have a built-in audience that can relate to your words on various levels.

A Story for You

It’s okay to write something with your own agenda in mind. Again, by writing from experience, more passion will come through the pages, and that’s a great way to keep a reader’s attention.

In 2005, Julie Powell wrote Julie and Julia’: My Year of Cooking Dangerously about her experience working through Julia Child’s recipes. The book was later adapted into a movie with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. But, Powell started out writing about something that interested her. Something she loved doing. Something as simple as cooking turned into an incredible story about her life, relationships, career, and future.

If you’re a fan of cooking, try turning your family recipes into stories, or share your own unique experiences in the kitchen with readers. You could even find a ‘niche’ in cooking with something specific, like wine, or hard-to-find ingredients.

If cooking isn’t your thing, consider your other hobbies. What are you passionate about? You’re not the only one with that passion, and others could just be waiting for your story to connect with. Make sure you manage your time between that passion, writing, and your personal life. Otherwise, you might risk losing your spark for whatever it is you’re writing about.

Trying to find an inspirational way to get started? NaNoWriMo is just around the corner (yes, you read that right). It’s a nonprofit organization that encourages writers to express themselves and find their voices every year in the month of November with the goal of writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. It’s not quite as daunting as it sounds, and NaNoWriMo gives writers the tools, resources, support, and sense of community to reach their goals and set new ones all year long. Getting involved this year could be just the inspirational boost you need to find your story.

A Story for Someone

If you could connect with just one person through your words, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Writing about yourself and your experiences has many benefits, including:

  1. Improved self-awareness
  2. More observational skills
  3. Overcoming fear
  4. Learning more about yourself

It’s also a great way to find others like you. If you have a blog, for example, and you share a very personal story, you might receive a comment from someone who went through something similar. Finding that kind of connection can help you to feel like you’re not alone. It can also motivate you to write more from experience.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you write a book about one of your personal experiences as a sort of therapeutic measure, you never know who might pick it up and find the same kind of healing power within your words. Not only could you be helping yourself through your writing, but you may be helping others. That, alone, is worth the effort of being more vulnerable.

Writing from experience is a fantastic way to be more self-aware while finding a connection with others along the way. Your words will be more genuine, more passionate, and more real and raw. Readers can easily pick up on that, and those are the kinds of stories that people can’t get enough of.

© Indiana Lee October 16th 2020

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