“Write what you know” – Mark Twain.
This advice is frequently given to aspiring authors. It was given to me years ago and I decided to give it a try. At first I worried that what I knew was not necessarily the stuff of great literature, at least that’s what I thought, until I pared down a couple of Shakespeare plays and examined their plot lines. (This is the kind of thing you do on a Saturday night when you live in Stratford-upon-Avon, have two small children, no social life and the Internet hasn’t been invented yet.)
As Mommy blogs had also not been invented, I just wrote for myself and was quite surprised by how much I knew. For example, I knew that I didn’t belong in the British countryside. I knew that buying a cottage in the middle of nowhere when you are six months pregnant is a big mistake. I knew that we could not afford to renovate it and I knew more about septic tanks than would be useful when we moved back to the city, (which I knew had to be only a matter of time). What I didn’t know, was that it would take us thirteen years and that the city would be Los Angeles.
I would hate for you to think that I lived in abject misery for thirteen years. I didn’t. If I had, then my writing style would be closer to Sylvia Plath’s. In many ways it was a good life. I ran a successful business. I wrote a lot. I needed to write because I always had this feeling that I didn’t belong, that I was on the outside looking in.
The first time I walked along the beach at Malibu I realized that California was where I was meant to be. After a while I understood the culture, the variety of the landscape and I saw this incredible potential to reinvent my life. As Frank Lloyd Wright famously said:
“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”
I landed here. I ‘know’ this place… and I can’t stop writing about it.