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Write What You Know

I will be the first to admit that some of my least favorite advice for beginning writers is "write what you know". Part of the reason that I dislike that advice is because I limited it to what I did know, and as a teenager, it wasn't much. I hadn't traveled around the world; I didn't camp in the middle of Alaska; I came from a good family in small town America. What I knew was the same everyone else knew ... and it was a little boring.

Then, I changed my opinion, and expanded my definition of what I knew. Write what I knew became write what I love and that expanded a great deal of what I could research. Writing what I knew also became write what is around me, and that led to more historical research.

This photo is taken at Fort Niagara on the mouth of the Niagara River (American side). Along the shoreline is the French Castle, so called because the French originally built the location as a trading post. To the right is Lake Ontario. The spit of land on the horizon is Canada, and between Canada and the French Castle is the Niagara River.

I might not know a great deal, but my backyards, both where I currently live and where I grew up, are full of history - American, English, French and Native American. I came to realize that by researching my territory, what I knew and what I loved became intertwined, thus what I knew became more.

What does write what you know mean to you? Have you discovered stories sitting around you, just waiting to be discovered?

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