Wednesday, September 7, 2022

What if I don’t know anything?

by Dietrich

How has your life shaped your writing? 

Life experiences come into play in one way or another and affect my writing. Emotions, senses and imagination all get called on. 

The thing is, if I only wrote about places I’ve actually been and experiences I’ve had, I’d feel hedged in and limited, and I probably wouldn’t have much to say. The mistake is thinking that ‘write what you know’ means to only write about events and places I’ve actually experienced. Of course, common sense would tell any writer there are no rules that limit how we come by what we know. We observe the world around us, and we take liberties left and right, coming up with imaginary characters, fleshing them out and relaying their experiences, making it up as we go. The only thing that matters is that a story rings true to the reader, taking them on a new adventure. So I’ve come to know that  ‘write what you know’ means to digest the research and feed the imagination, then spin it into a story which seems like I was there.

Without restrictions, my imagination is the most valuable tool in the box. It lets me expand beyond the physical world and bring characters and their stories to life. Maybe the expression should be ‘write about anything and about any place the imagination allows you to soar.’

Finding out everything I can about a place in time is like loading up the palette. It’s the research and deep digging that helps make characters believable and allows details and settings to become real.

How has your writing shaped your life?

Writing not only lets me explore ideas, but it’s taught me to take risks. It allows me to explore the human condition and the world in general. In doing that, it’s helped me understand more about myself too, putting thoughts into words, and often going deeper into myself.

Some days I can sit and just crack away for hours, other days are more challenging. But, no matter what’s going on in the world around me, I find a way to sit at my desk and slip into the story I’m working on, even if it’s just for a short while.

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help.” ― Bill Watterson 

I’ve learned a lot through the research I’ve done across more than a dozen novels. And since I scratched out that first story, I’ve increased my personal reading as well. I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction too, and anytime I’m unable to read a book, I’m likely plugged into an audiobook.

Writing has introduced me to a whole writing world, and I’ve met many interesting people who do what I do, including this fine community of very talented individuals, not excluding those who’ve spent time here and moved on. 

Writing is something I wanted to do since my teens, and eventually penning some early short stories and seeing them get published was a thrill. It gave me the confidence to start on that first novel. And writing every day since has become a passion; it gives me a purpose as well as a favorite creative outlet. It’s simply what I love to do, and not much can top that feeling.

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.” — Jack Kerouac


Brenda Chapman said...

So beautifully said, Dietrich. I love your gorgeous closing quote.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thank you, Brenda.

Susan C Shea said...

I'm always amazed at how profound my Minds colleagues are. Another good post, Dietrich. And, I agree with Brenda, that is such an evocative quote you closed with.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Susan. And I'm sure Jack Kerouac would thank you too.