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Write What You Know (And What Would That Be?)

As novice writers, we are often advised to "write about what we know." Sounds like good advice, but what would that be? Who would want to read about our boring, little lives?

Here’s a writing exercise that might help.

Take a sheet of paper (or open to a clean page in your private journal), put your name at the top, and number 1 – 20 down the left side of the sheet. Skip lines, if you want, and use a second sheet.

Then without stopping (this will be difficult the first time you do this), name twenty nouns that describe you. If you need, use noun phrases (the noun is embedded in the phrase itself) to describe yourself.

Don’t worry about the order of these - just come up with twenty nouns that describe you.

Here is an example of my list:

1. Wife/Ex-wife

2. Mother/Step-mother

3. Grandmother

4. Daughter/Sister

5. Mother-in-law

6. Friend

7. Hispanic woman

8. Retired educator

9. Inactive licensed real estate agent

10. Published author of a newspaper personal column

11. Collector of way too many things

12. Boomer  

13. Wannabe fiction writer  

14. Christian

15. Republican

16. Movie buff

17. Child advocate

18. Cook

19. Diva

20. Anti-dieter


When you have twenty, go back and prioritize them in the order you feel they should have been numbered. Then jot down notes next to each - feelings, anecdotes, memories, etc., that tell or describe why you are an expert in that category.

For example, though I would prefer to write about the wonderful life I share with the current husband, think of all the wisdom and woe I can wring from the two divorces. Oh, the stories I could tell!

Try this the next time you need to brainstorm ideas or you need to chisel away at the writer's block.


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