Based on the comments to yesterday's post, it seems as though the 'yeas' have it thus far, not a dissenter in the bunch. One should and can with free conscience write from one's personal experiences was the consensus.
Write what you know.
I'm not buying it. At the risk of alienating what little audience I have, I strongly believe that the idea of "writing what you know" is one of the most overused and under-considered ideals of the literary community.
What does it even mean, to write what you know? How much does Stephen King really know about killer clowns or surviving the apocalypse? Can Meg Cabot know what it's like to be a princess, a mediator, or a psychic? What does Ann Coulter know about anything? I mean... no, actually I did mean that.
My point is that if I wrote only what I knew, well let's just say that I'm not going to limit myself like that. I think that a more appropriate adage would be "write what you can imagine knowing," because in the end, I believe writing comes down to imagination, not knowledge.
Let me put it another way.
I don't know what it's like to run for my life. However, I've had moments where I thought that I was about to die, and I've seen movies and read books about, and witnessed firsthand, how people behave when they fear for their lives. Using that information, I was able to imagine what it'd be like for my character to run for her life--how she'd feel, what she'd be thinking, etc.
I could probably write a dissertation on the subject so I should probably do the smart thing and walk away. But let me leave you with this: I can make a very persuasive argument for one of the leading causes of writing failures being a lack imagination used properly.
Maybe another day.
Food for thought: What makes or breaks an "author" in your opinion? That is, what allows some people to a complete story (and even write them well) while others fall short?