You've heard that old adage, 'write what you know', and there are differing opinions on whether that is good advice or not.
Some writers say 'yes indeed!' and others toss it right out the window, saying it restricts you as a writer and you'll never venture past it into the unknown, because writing is a voyage into those unfamiliar waters. They say, 'take the leap!'
My sister and I grew up in Seattle, Washington, until I was 7 and she was 10, then we moved to New Zealand. We were often thrown together with only each other for company, sometimes due to the Seattle winter weather which was rainy and cold and encouraged indoor activities, and when we came to a foreign country where we didn't know anyone for quite some time.
We both had vivid imaginations and often amused ourselves on those cold, wet Pacific Northwest days by making up stories, or acting out scenes from our favourite adventure and action TV shows. Sea Hunt was often the 'go to'. We adored the hunky devil-may-care Lloyd Bridges. Our bunk beds became the ship, the carpet on the floor the ominous depths of the sea, and shoe boxes tied onto our backs with string were our 'aqualungs.'
When we came to New Zealand, the first thing my parents did was drive all around the country in a small car, looking at potential places to settle. We spent hours in the car each day, and every evening, my sister and I would hop into the beds of yet another strange motel and tell each other stories or make up a song. Every day had a different topic. Sometimes it was wild west, other times it was sea adventure, or my sister's favourite, ghosts and horror. The object was to make up a story or song and tell or sing it.
The stories and songs were based on what we knew ... and then some. Our knowledge of the sea came from Lloyd Bridges and real life white-knuckle sailing adventures on Dad's boat (in Seattle), and our experience of the wild west from shows like Rawhide.
I knew how to tell a story about a family straggling along in a covered wagon on the dusty prairie, I knew about gunslingers and showdowns at high noon and how cowboys brewed up coffee in dented old pots on the fire, ate beans and drank whiskey in the saloons. My sister knew all of this too so I had to come up with a twist, a flight of imagination, that would engage her interest. I had to venture into the realm of uncertainty, into exploration, into creativity, sail into the unknown waters, to find that special something.
So what I think about 'write what you know' is yep, you can start there but let the writing take you where it will, into the world you don't know.
If you need to find out something, look it up.
If you feel nervous about venturing into a foreign landscape, grit your teeth and take the plunge.
Because writing is about going to the places you don't know, and finding out. It's about exploration and daring, using what you know as a springboard into those deliciously exciting places that await your discovery.