What Do You See, What Do You Know?

They say that writers see things differently than other people. I don’t know that that’s true.

I don’t think that we see things differently. I think that we SEE. That maybe we pay more attention to what we see, that we pick up what we see, and handle it, and look at it from different angles. We don’t see differently, we see more. We look deeper than the surface. And then we apply our own observations, our own interpretations, our own emotions, as touchstones and litmus tests and whatever other tests to see if they look real, to see if they feel true. If they feel TRUE.

I haven’t ever had a “love of my life.” But I’ve loved. I’ve loved my parents, and I’ve loved my friends, and I’ve loved my cats. And yes, a special someone or two. I’ve read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books where people love and are loved. I’ve watched TV shows and movies and plays. And I’ve seen my friends go through the motions and the emotions. The highs and the lows and the devastating pain of losing a loved one. And so I know I can write about love. Because even though I have never felt that particular love in my own self, my heart knows how that feels because through my watching and my testing and my simply living—I encompass all these things.

They say “write what you know.” But oh, we know so many things that we have never experienced in our own selves. We are rich in experiences that have happened to others. From books, from TV, from movies, from plays. And in those things and the things we have experienced are the seeds to write what we have not.

I have never gone skydiving, but I have leaned against the wind in a storm and felt it hold my body up when I should have fallen. Felt it take my breath away even as it fills my lungs with elation. I have felt my hair whip across my face driving in the car with the top down. So when I see someone leap out of an airplane and spread his arms like wings I know what he is feeling. And if I know it, I can show it.

Write what you know. But remember that you know more than you think.

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