Like the Back of My Hand

There’s that ancient writing advice, “Write what you know.” I’ve always taken that to mean you should write about the things in your life, the things that have happened to you, the things you’re familiar with. As someone who’s always primarily written imaginative, fantastic fiction and surreal poetry, that advice never seemed particularly useful to me.

But it just occurred to me that the advice is really telling you to steal from the sources you love the most, to let your writing be infused with the things that you’ve read, watched, listened to, etc over and over again to the point where they’re permanently camped in your subconscious. While it’s important to expose yourself to a wide variety of art and culture, you shouldn’t have to read new things just to be a writer. Write what you know.

Superhero comics, Doctor Who, the Star Wars movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Casablanca, The Hobbit, Babylon 5, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire SlayerSports NightSomething Wicked This Way Comes, The Worm Ouroboros, The Gormenghast Trilogy, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Princess of Mars…these things are indelibly inked into my brain, dancing in my mind like drunk, happy goblins. If I write what I know, what I know is this.

That makes the advice extremely useful. And a hell of a lot of fun.

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