There’s a writing cliche that has been blogged and opined about for years – “Write what you know.”

Fantasy writers say, “How am I supposed to write as a princess stuck in a tower who owns dragons?”

Sci-Fi writers say, “How am I supposed to write if I’ve never been to space?”

Horror writers say, “How am I supposed to write if I’ve never killed a person this way.”

But like with most things, those writers are missing the nuanced meaning behind those words. It’s not to be taken literally – if it were, I would be writing volumes about how to manage content using SharePoint. And nobody wants to read that (and trust me, my clients sure don’t).

What the phrase means, to me, is to write what you know on an emotional level.

Do I know how to capture pirates? Can I beat up someone? Do I know how to bounty hunt? Nope.
Do I know how it feels to know, in my soul, that something is what I’m meant to be doing, but having to suffer through working something else until everyone else believes me too? Do I know the frustration of working my ass off and seeing only incremental changes?

Do I know how it feels to love someone so much? Do I know what it’s like to feel like I’ve finally found my home with someone? Do I know what it’s like to have that person ripped from me suddenly? Do I know what it’s like to pretend that I’m okay because I’m too stubborn to admit that I’m a hot mess?

Do I know what it’s like to be at war with the two sides of myself? Do I know what it’s like to completely and utterly hate a part of myself, one which I was told or grew to believe was worthless?

My books may be based in a fantasy world, but they are grounded in the real situations of my own life. Before I told everyone about my little writing habit, I was using it to parse out my own feelings (albeit subconsciously) and explore the what-ifs. Now that I’ve become self-aware, I’ve begun to see how these fantasy scenarios expose my deepest, darkest fears. Fear of trust, fear of rejection. Fear of being myself. As Razia grows into herself, as she comes to terms with each of her issues, I do as well.

That being said: My mother has never told me she wished I had never been born (opposite in fact), and my Daddy has never abandoned me. In these cases, that’s when that ol’ acting training works: By “getting into character,” I can faithfully write the way Lyssa would react in those situations.

So yes – Do write what you know, write what you’re afraid of, and write what you discover about yourself.

At the end of the day: It’s going to come out anyways.