On either fence of, “Write what you know,” I tend to lean towards writing about what I don’t know; “Write What Obsesses You,” as Meg Wolitzer describes it.
A year after publishing Creative Doing, and a few years after the initial manuscript, I still pick it up and enjoy flipping through it. Although there are many prompts that I don’t remember off the top of my head, I apply a good many of them—they feel like they’re a core part of me now.
Some people say in order to write a book, you need to live it. While I lived aspects of Creative Doing, the more accurate way to say it would be, the writing process changed me, and that I live the book now. I wrote the book I needed to read, not just in the past, but also in the future.
There’s a next body of work I’m working towards—expectations—that I also feel this way about. The situations I’m in constantly prove that I haven’t mastered my own senses of expectations, confidence, or teamwork yet. This used to discourage me from writing; I’d be a fraud to write on the topic.
And yet, even 50 Cent wrote:
I just didn’t like the idea of presenting myself as an expert on life…. Yes, I’ve been comfortable sharing my successes publicly, but privately I’m sensitive to the fact that those accomplishments haven’t made my life all the way right. There are many things I’ve fucked up: money, relationships, opportunities, friendships…you name it.
I’ve absolutely failed as many times as I’ve succeeded.
After writing one book, I can say that each situation I’m in where I experience failure genuinely feels like an opportunity; it’s a chance to feel the emotion, to more closely meet the reader where they are or will be, makes my book even more applicable. As Robert Greene has said, “It’s all material.” When I first read the phrase, I thought it was smart; now I realize that it’s true. Any moment I experience imposter syndrome, cave into a moment of self-doubt, or want to communicate more clearly, there’s a new idea for the work.
Reading is a decision to change; so is writing. You become what you write about. Choose your post and book topics deliberately and thoughtfully; each one is a building block of your future, both in terms of what you publish, and in terms of how you’re changing your own mind.