Write What You Feel
As writers, we’ve all heard or even given the advice “Write about what you know.”
This is especially doled out to the novice. This can work, but sometimes, writing about the things closest to us can backfire and might not deliver the emotional punch you were hoping for. So, how do you reach across the page and make that connection between writer and reader?
I would like to offer up a counter quote from L.P. Hartley. “It’s better to write about things you feel than about things you know about.” This piece of advice encourages you to write from the heart vs. your experiences.
Think about the last time you were moved by a book, article or blog post. What about it excited you? You probably felt as if they wrote the piece just for you. How where they able to get into your head, when presumably you’ve never met in person? Emotions. While we don’t all share the same physical experiences, we all have had the same emotional experiences of love, hate, jealousy and joy. Writing from the heart rather than the head is what enables us to make the connection the reader is hoping for. So go ahead and write about that dystopia, bank robbery or serial killer you secretly wanted to do. Because, even though you aren’t familiar with those things (hopefully) you can pull from your emotional reservoir making it a book people can’t put down.
It is very common for a writer to write about well, writers. That’s okay but we need to stretch ourselves. A person experienced in fishing could probably write about the newest lure, how to bait a hook, and list the best fishing holes in the area, and the reader would gain some knowledge and hopefully tuck the article away to reference later. But how does the non-fisher write about fishing? Besides doing that all important research, they could write about what they felt while fishing? What if they described the calming feeling of being on or near the water? Maybe they relate the struggle of reeling in the big one to a relationship they struggle with internally or with a family member? The comparisons could very well connect with the reader, especially if they are in the same boat (sorry for the pun).
As a writer, you need to make that connection or you’ve lost the reader. When a reader is touched by something they’ve read, they are more likely to share it, whether it be by retweeting, Facebook, or simply handing their friend a hard copy of the newspaper, magazine or book.
So, when you’re brainstorming or plotting your next writing project, go a step further. Don’t just write about what you know, but dig deeper and ask yourself about how you feel. What emotions does it stir? Does it conjure up any memories from your childhood, or give you a feeling of peace? Weave the experience and knowledge together with the feelings, and you’ll have a great piece worth reading and sharing.