I am very much me.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that when I write, I focus on what I know.
I know Asia. Living here for twenty years will do that. Asia is probably forever in my writing DNA, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
What did Hemmingway write? The South Floridian wrote about the Keys in “To Have and Have Not.” (I loved that book.)
The war-time ambulance driver wrote the fantastic “For Whom the Bell Tolls” about the Spanish Civil War.
If you aren’t creating new worlds, it’s a tried and true practice to use what you know.
I remember when I was in college, I wanted to write an autobiographical novel of my life. I failed miserably. I never wrote one word. I wrote a few poems about my life to that point, hoping that it would thrust me wholeheartedly into my earth-shattering novel about an 18 year old who had no experiences.
Yeah, I was naïve. But that’s okay. It discouraged me that I had nothing to write about. Fantasy wasn’t interesting to me. I’ve always been about real-life human issues and emotions, and it just so happened that that 18-year-old had no interesting human issues and emotions. So I stared at many blank pages until I realized one day that twenty years had passed and I hadn’t written anything.
But what did happen in those twenty years were experiences. Marriage, kids, happiness, sadness, new cultures, new languages, new people, diverse people, interesting people, unbelievable situations, strange food, motorbike trips into the mountains, and a glimpse of every human emotion imaginable.
These experiences have become my tableau. The sheet is no longer clean. It’s stained with all types of deliciously interesting situations. And as a writer, I am grateful for it.
So as I write my first full-length play in two years, I find myself once again using my Asian experience, my political interests, and meld them together in an interesting, fun and engaging new play.
If you are going to write, start with what you know. If it isn’t enough, give it a little time and let life fill in the details until letting yourself loose.