Last weekend at The Hay Festival (Kerala edition), Sebastian Faulks – author of Charlotte Gray, Human Traces and A Week in December – urged young writers to write about what they don’t know, contrary to the advice most commonly given. His logic is that as a writer of fiction, it’s your job to tell stories outside your realm of experience in order to better make use of your imagination. It obviously works for him.
Today, I kind of understood what he meant. I wrote a scene which I have lived many times: a lesson at a Japanese eikaiwa (English conversation school). Sure, I was writing it from the opposite side to what I know – the student’s – but it was still a very familiar universe… and I found it unusually difficult to bring to life in any way. Indeed, it felt really boring to write. When I contrast that with the stuff I’d written earlier about Mari’s corporate work environment, which is a world I most certainly haven’t ever inhabited, the comparatively much easier flow is evident. (not evident here, though, judging by that clumsy sentence)
What I’ve gone and done is started writing a novel which is very much based around situations I have known in my life, and now I’m questioning whether that was the right way to go. It might help me to focus on the fact that I’m telling those stories from a different perspective. And it is fiction, after all. I can officially do whatever I want.