Write what scares you.
We’ve all heard the old adage, the advice to writers to “write what you know.” I’ve always thought it was more interesting to write what you love rather than what you know. Then a few days ago I saw Adam Rapp’s stunning new play The Sound Inside at Williamstown Theatre Festival. In an interview in the program notes he says he would recommend to young writers, or rather “give them permission to explore the questions and topics that genuinely scare them.” I love this suggestion. Because when writers investigate the things that scare us we are forced to ask questions, we are forced to go deeper – and as a result our characters have rougher edges, more flaws and more inner turmoil. When we simply write what we know, that writing can be flat – truthful probably, but it somehow lacks life and grit and the conflicts within the writing can feel contrived.
So thank you Mr. Rapp! Your recommendation to “write what scares us” is gold.