Some guidebooks to creative writing say that you should write what you know. I say throw that advice out with the bathwater.
For a start, it’s what you know that got you to where you are and think about it: are you happy? Chances are that you’re not. So why would you want to write about that sh…tuff? Trust me, you don’t. No one wants to know about the mole on your left temple. We all know about moles. We’ve read the papers. It’s either benign or it’s not. If it’s benign it’s boring. If it’s not, then chances are you’re in for a whole heap of pain and discomfort; and that’s looking on the bright side. So don’t go there.
So how do you get outside the box into stuff you don’t know about?
One option is to take some substance that will give your mind a temporary boost into other realms. Here’s the thing about this option, though: that stuff will fu…nch you up. My advice? DON’T DO IT.
The next best option is to borrow stuff. If you listen to people then you will find that they have lots of stuff happening in their lives. I have a friend at college who is seriously messed up in her head. She does not know whether she is flying up or sliding down most of the time. Some of the best writing I have ever done has been on the back of trying to figure out her neuroses. For example, in the middle of a class, she will suddenly come out with the strangest stuff. She’ll ask a question and then tell us, one by one, that the answers we give to her question are wrong. Then, when you ask her what her answer to her question is she will say that she has been misunderstood. Then she gives her answer, which turns out to be as wrong or right as any other answer that’s been given. Now, the trick is: not to castigate her for this, but to write about it. Make sure, though, that you change all the names, times, places and circumstances. Remember: crazy people will have no compunction about biting deep into your sweet and tender ass if you so much as breathe a word about their craziness in print.
The final option I have for you is to write about dangerous things* that could happen to you but haven’t. For example, picture yourself getting lost in a bad part of town in New York. There are lots of places like that so I’ll not be specific. Pretend you get mugged. Pretend that you fought off your muggers single-handedly. Pretend that you got a life-threatening illness as a result of a superficial machete gash as a result of your near miss in New York. Pretend that you have to fight for your life in the Intensive Care Unit in an unfamiliar hospital where no one speaks your language. Pretend that you discover that there’s nothing wrong with you but you’re being experimented on by aliens disguised as nurses in the hospital. Pretend that your only option, if you don’t want to be sliced up by the nurse aliens, is to jump outta the window. From the fifth floor! Pretend that you wake up in your bed and it’s all been a dream. None of these things has happened to me or anyone I know, but I can still write about them. And so can you!
So, yeah: those were three ways to step outside the box and write about what you see there.
Have fun, muchachos. 🐸
*All the Dangerous Things
- Yeah, I’m bored with that joke now.