I’m a member of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop. What is it? A chance for authors at any stage in their career to connect by providing helpful posts related to all things writing. The Hop occurs once a month, with the exception of November and December. My post for March 2020 is writing what you know, so read on…
Write What You Know…Really?
I’ll never forget when I first decided to take a writing course through the mail. In the late 90s, the Internet wasn’t booming yet, so online courses still happened over the snail mail. This excited me because I’d get to work with an experienced author. I had just finished the fourth book in what I call my Boys from the Bay series. When I registered for the course, I had to fill out a big form. It asked me the usual questions about who I was, what did I write, and so on.
I answered honestly, stating I worked for an aboriginal employment and training agency, that I looked after a certain district, I was from an Ojibway community, grew up there, blah, blah blah.
So imagine my surprise when my mentor responded with a “write what you know.” He wanted me to write about Canada’s Indigenous People. He said I was living it, therefore I should try writing it.
I was very disappointed. Yeah, the mentor and I didn’t get off on the right foot. More like the left. Maybe even my pride was a little pricked, which caused the rebellious thought of, “Who does this guy think he is? Telling me to write about Indigenous people just because I’m Indigenous.”
I was writing about an outlaw motorcycle gang, way before MC romance became popular. I had four books done. My series was supposed to be seven books. I needed his mentorship to be able to land an agent.
You can probably guess what happened to my mentorship, huh? Yep, I never worked with him again. I was determined to see this series through. I finished all of my books, seven in total. Then I began seeking out agents. Naturally, each letter I received in the mail was a pass LOL.
I took a break, got hooked on playing golf instead (mind you I was still writing for fun), and didn’t seriously decide to pursue my dream of publication again until around 2010. And you know something, I thought good and hard about what my former mentor had said: Write what you know.
I began working on a book called Fire and Water. I began taking online courses, too. Lots of them to hone my writing and storytelling skill. No, Fire and Water never did see publication, but it started me on the path of writing what I know. And what I know is Canada’s Indigenous People.
I am Ojibway. I grew up on an Indian Reserve. My history goes back deep, all the way to my maternal great-grandfather being one of the signatories on the treaty established in my treaty area way back in the late 1800s. I worked for the band (what you might know as a township’s administration office). Then I began working for a training and employment agency that served the aboriginal people in our treaty area. My travels took me all over the place. I got to work with twenty-four First Nations communities. I worked with Indigenous people on an individual basis. I put together and facilitated workshops. I worked with aboriginal organisations. Yes, I knew the Indigenous people.
I knew we were so much more than what most people assume we are. Then I thought, why not write about our everyday lives and romances? Why not showcase us as who we are, because some are steeped in tradition, others aren’t. Some are Christian while others practise other spiritual beliefs. We are in law enforcement, law, politics, health care, education, construction…you name it. Why not write romance with an Indigenous twist?
I must say I was rather excited. And I owe it all to my former mentor who dared to tell me to “write what I know.”
Since I became published back in July 2018, I have released four novels and four short stories through my publisher, with many more to come. I’m glad I took my former mentor’s advice. I guess that’s why they’re called mentors. They are full of wisdom and experience.
Now I’m not telling anyone they must write what they know. I’m only sharing my experience of writing what I know, and how much I’m loving it.
Do you write what you know? If yes, why did you decide to take this writing route? And if you don’t write what you know, why did you choose this path? I’m most interested in hearing what everyone has to say, because I think both directions are awesome.