In journalism school, I may have excelled at beat reporting, gotten the best quotes when sent out in the field, and aced classroom journalism, but when it came to creative non-fiction, features, and op-Ed writing, I always struggled with coming up with material and finding my own strong voice.
“Write what you know,” was the advice I was constantly given, but the problem was, I didn’t know a whole lot. I was 22-years-old, sheltered all my life, and wasn’t aware of the big, bad, diverse world out there.
Then I moved to New York City spring 2005 and everything changed. New York City is where I subtly grew from a fresh, wide-eyed girl into a strong, capable, if not somewhat jaded woman.
Cleaning out my desk in my office, I came across a couple pages of typed looseleaf paper. Curious and not remembering what it was, I started reading. Written in a fictional voice, it wasn’t until a couple paragraphs in that I realized, it wasn’t fiction. It was a memory. My memory, that had long been forgotten. It was so detailed, so honest, I felt like I was reliving those few hours of that night so long ago. So that’s what my professors meant by “write what you know.” Because those pages of documenting an event so small and insignificant I almost couldn’t recall…was probably some of the best writing I’ve ever done, to the point where I didn’t even recognize it as my own.
Write what I know.