“Write what you know” is one of the most common writing pieces of advice out there. The trouble with this piece of advice is that writers take it too seriously. They assume that they are supposed to write about their lives.
There is nothing wrong with writing about your life, but don’t expect anyone to read it because in most of the cases our lives are extremely boring for readers; unless something extraordinary had happened to you; like being falsely accused of murder and spending 20 years in prison or exposing the hiding place of a war criminal; you get the point.
People like reading about the extremes, they’ve got their own, ordinary, monotone lives and they are sick of it.
What I would say instead of “Write what you know” is “Write what you’ve felt.”
If you’ve been hurt by a significant other and you know that feeling, write about someone else with the same feeling but take it to the extreme and make it interesting to the ideal reader. – Kramer vs Kramer by Avery Corman
If you’ve lost a family member and you know what grief is, write about someone else losing their family member and how that affects them – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filler
If you or your partner had an abortion, and it ruined your life and your relationship and you want to write about it, take it to the other level and write about entire families ruined by that event- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
These are just some of the countless examples.
There are more stories than there are feeling caused by events in our lives.
These feeling are common to all of us and it’s easy to relate to them. We want to know that these same things happened to someone else as well, but we want them to be extreme because then we can say – “Oh, it could’ve been worse” and we get on with our lives knowing that there are people less fortunate than us.