They say you should write what you know and I am torn on whether or not I agree with that adage. Yes, it makes sense to write about something you know about, something you have knowledge about, something that interests you, something that you can write in a way that is realistic and accurate. But… I also think that writing should be about learning and expanding your mind, and I take great joy out of needing to learn more about something in order to include it (either in one of my stories or in my academic work).
Beyond this, I also think that writing can be a great way to heal your mind, a way to experience something you have been unable to experience in ‘real life’, a way to right wrongs and to live out your wildest fantasies. By wildest fantasies I am not necessarily referring to fantasies in the sexual sense, but in a general, personal sense. As a couple of (weak) examples, someone who writes about celebrity life may have had a life long dream/fantasy to be a celebrity or may have been fascinated by the concept of celebrity for as long as they could remember. Or maybe someone who writes about going to the moon may have had a life long dream/fantasy to explore space, to find out if there really is life outside our own planet. It doesn’t take a genius to read through my stories to find particular themes.
Because I write erotic romance, relationships are a key theme in my writing. I write about female/female relationships because I KNOW female/female relationships. I am married to a woman so I consider myself very knowledgeable on all things female/female, from the type of relationship they tend to have, to the sex… the incredibly amazing sex. I write about male/female relationships, and again, this is because I KNOW female/male relationships. I know the sex, I know the relationship dynamics… just not as well as I know the female/female relationships and dynamics.
It is the male/female relationships where I find myself not writing what I know, but writing about what I wish I knew. It is where the ‘healing’ aspect of writing comes in to it for me. Before meeting and marrying my now wife, I had relationships with men. Most didn’t make it past a couple of months, one made it to six months, another made it to fifteen months, but other than that they were either very much on/off, or ended soon after the novelty wore off. I seemed to get into relationships for the wrong reasons – mainly WANTING to be in a relationship – and they always blew up in my face, or the guys ended up being assholes, including one who ended up being sexually and emotionally abusive toward me. Before you ask, NO, that is not the reason I now find myself married to a woman!
What I know is dysfunctional relationships. What I feel I missed out on and wish I had experienced was a healthy relationship with both parties being equal, both parties being madly in love and excited by the prospect of a long future together. The things I never had. So while I write about what I know, I also write about what I wish I knew from personal experience. I thought for a start it was weird that all the relationships I write seem to be perfect, with only minor hiccups along the way… but after analysing it a bit further, I realised I write those type of relationships because it is a way to experience them for myself, through my characters.
I am lucky that I get to experience the type of relationship I have always dreamed of, with my wife. But part of me still feels like I missed out on the experience with a man. I don’t write about it because it is something I still want. That is the furthest thing from my mind. I think it is a form of therapy for me to write about it now, a way to ‘experience’ it and then move on. A way to deal with my internal thoughts and help to declutter my rather busy brain.
Related to this, I guess, is the fact I tend to always end up with a female character being pregnant. Pregnancy is something I know, and I have two beautiful daughters to show for it. What I wish I knew about pregnancy is going through it supported. Other than my family and a couple of friends I had no support through my pregnancies and it is something I feel that I missed out on. I never had someone to cuddle up with in bed at night and discuss baby names, I never had someone to share the ultrasound experience with, I never had someone to rub my belly.
I know that not all pregnancies are that perfect, that it is really just a big perfect ideal I have in my head, but… it is still something I wish I had been able to experience. I do get to experience it through my pregnant characters though. I get to create the pregnancy I wish I had been able to experience for myself. The man and woman share the awe and excitement of ultrasounds, the man and woman battle for hours as they try to come up with the perfect name for their baby, the man and woman lie in bed at night and enjoy feeling the baby kicking together, the man and woman get frustrated trying to find the perfect sexual position that works for her and accommodates her growing belly. Then of course there is that beautiful moment when the baby is born and their little family becomes complete.
And there you have it. The reason I don’t believe that we should only write ‘what we know’, and why writing has always seemed very therapeutic to me… because for me it IS a form of therapy.
Only a LOT cheaper and a LOT more enjoyable!