Monday, November 7, 2011

Write What You Want to Know?

A common mantra among writers is to write what you know. However, I have heard it said, not to write what you know, but rather to write what you WANT to know. Of course, this would involve a heck of a lot more research, but maybe you’re the writer who loves that aspect of the process.

I’m on the fence.

To some degree I do like research, but sometimes it is easier to write the things you know about.

I’ve noticed a common theme in many of my stories lately. Mommy issues, addiction, mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease and aging.

The first three, mostly because these themes have run rampant in my life, I have taken an attraction to. Maybe more for understanding, for wanting to know what makes the mind do the things it does. And maybe for a better understanding of just who I am.

Alzheimer’s and aging have taken on a new form for me. As I may have mentioned sometime earlier, I have started to work with seniors part-time. I used to be that person who was terrified being in the same room as a “cranky” old man or woman. But of late, this has changed.

The seniors I find myself working with have some form of dementia. Primarily Alzheimer’s, which stands to reason since it’s the most common form of dementia.

Recently I did a book review where the topic was Alzheimer’s. Even from that I got a better understanding of the disease. I had a great Aunt who suffered from it but from her I didn’t gather much because I never saw her after she progressed to the point she didn’t remember anyone.

But now…well…I want to know more about it, and it exists in my family, so it’s just another thing to add to that list of things I want to know more about.

So together, writing what we both already know and what we want to know, brings more life to the piece at hand. Add with it some empathy and understanding, and whammo! Brilliance.

Or so I’d like to think.