Greetings my Firehouse friends. Let's have a discussion, shall we?
I was perusing my Facebook wall the other day and came across a post by The
Writer's Circle. They posed this question:
Should writers stick to the subjects they know best or become familiar
with new ones?
So much to talk about! Where to begin?
The Writer's Circle posed this question in response to an article posted on
the New York Times website in which the author discusses three famous writing
mottoes. One of them is, "Write what you know." I could get into some
of the things discussed in the article but I just want to focus on the question
Like most writers, I'm sure, I heard the phrase, "Write what you know"
very early in my writing career. It is a very common sense statement in my
opinion. It's hard to write about, even talk about something you know nothing
about. But the idea of limiting your writing just because you don't know enough
about a certain subject seems a little crazy to me, especially in this day and
age. Information is so easily accessible how could you not become familiar with
This question of writing only what you know versus learning about new things
makes me think of a couple of quotes and a conversation I had with Victoria
Hanely (she's the author of The Seer and the Sword and several other
The first quote is from F. Scott Fitzgerald. "Writers aren't exactly
people...they're a whole lot of people trying to be one person." Now, I
won't deny everyone has those different sides of them. But for writers, I think
those sides are more fully formed and fleshed out. It's not just that sometimes
you turn into a total jerk when you're really hungry. It's more like you change
from being you to being a person who legitimately enjoys the thought of
clubbing baby seals. Not quite the same.
That being said, writers are likely to dabble in a lot of different areas
and explore a lot of different things that will likely show up in their writing
This next quote comes from the bestest most awesome show ever, Avatar:
The Last Airbender. It may be animated and meant for kids but it is
quality, trust me.
The wise Uncle Iroh tells his nephew, "It is important to draw wisdom
from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes
rigid and stale. Understanding others...will help you become whole."
This is an idea that I think everyone, not just writers, should take to
heart. Feelings like anger, hate, distrust and fear nearly always stem from a
lack of understanding. If we all took the time to understand more of the world
around us, even at the most basic level, the level of suck in the world would
likely decrease a great deal.
The last thing I want to mention is a comment made by author Victoria
Hanley. We were at the CSU Young Writer's Workshop. Ms. Hanley was talking
about how so many kids come up to her saying they want to be a writer. She then
explained her response to them is usually along the lines of, "Be a Marine
Biologist. Then be a writer." Point being, it's hard to have something to
write about if you don't do anything with your life.
So, to give my own personal answer to the question, should writers stick to
the subjects they know best or become familiar with new ones, I would answer
that they should absolutely and undoubtedly become familiar with new ones. The
world has far too much to offer to limit yourself to one area of expertise or
one lifestyle or one kind of hobby.
What do you think? Is it better to have your niche and stick to it making the
assumption the final products will be of a higher quality? Or should you branch
out as much as you can and run the risk of producing something less than
I have one last story to illustrate my stance on this matter. I once
inflicted a serious amount of damage to my elbow while doing archery for the
first time. I was doing archery so I could have a better understanding of the
craft so I could write about it in a story. Also because archery is
Until next time my friends! And I would love to hear your thoughts on this