I have been scouring my brain for things that I know well enough to write about, and it’s not a long list. I’ve lived only 27 years, and those 27 years haven’t been filled with much adventure or excitement.
But isn’t the whole point of writing to create your own world that you don’t necessarily know anything about before you enter it? Writing isn’t always about giving your readers advice or relaying a personal experience you’ve had… sometimes it’s about wanting to tell yourself a different story and go somewhere you’ve never gone. And if you’re interested in telling this story, chances are, someone else will also be interested in hearing it.
“Write what you know” is sometimes very good advice because it can prevent a young writer from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer possibility of the blank page. This advice can also be limiting. If everyone wrote about only what they knew and had directly experienced in the real world, Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and millions of other fantasy universes wouldn’t exist.
“Write what you know” isn’t necessarily meant to be taken literally. There is a lot more to what you know than just your objective daily experiences and the things that happen to you. Part of writing is sharing subjective emotions, which everyone knows about because they are part of the human experience. These things are supposedly universal, but nobody experiences sadness quite like you do, and nobody falls in love quite like you do. This kind of universal experience is what really brings those fantasy worlds to life and makes their characters memorable.
So perhaps “write to discover” is better advice.