Growing up, all of my English teachers gave us the same piece of advice before handing out creative writing assignments: Write what you know. Unsurprisingly, my creative writing work was unimaginative and stale. Come on - I was a nerdy suburban private school kid. Nothing exciting happened in my life.
The thing is, I'm actually a fairly creative person. But years and years of failing (well, getting a B for effort) at creative writing assignments led me to believe that my creative talent lay solely in photography, and maybe my organizational skills. (Creative storage! Ask me about my bookshelves!) For people with interesting lives, "writing what you know" is a great place to start the writing process. But for the rest of us, we definitely need to take a different tack.
Two years ago, I discovered NaNoWriMo (yes, I know, I was living under a rock), and ever since then I've had ideas floating around in my head. Characters and snippets of plot have been haunting my daydreams. Yet something still wasn't right. I didn't think I could make it work because it wasn't something I knew. But you know what? After stepping back and considering my reading tastes, these bits and bobs of storyline make perfect sense. They're pieces of my favorite books, but remixed into my own original version.
It's been freeing to accept that I can write outside of what I know. Now, I just have to figure out how to write what I like - and maybe, just maybe, one day the end result of that revelation will be published.