Capturing authenticity in your writing becomes more straightforward if you write about something you know very well. You will be familiar with the feelings, sensations, environmental conditions and fine nuances associated with your subject, so this gives you plenty of material with which to work. You are in the best position possible to make the reader imagine they are experiencing what you have experienced many times before.
However, the adage about not being able to see the wood for the trees applies here. It is possible to know too much to be able to articulate an idea intelligibly. Your advantage of having ready access to material can also become a hindrance. As with any written work, you need to keep in mind your readership as you write, and try to imagine how they are experiencing what you present for them. Try to imagine how they will respond as potential newcomers to your idea. Try to remember what you struggled with when you were new to this idea.
Here are some hints you might want to consider if the core of your idea is something you know well:
- Identify your audience – Who will be interested in reading about what you know so well? Only other experts or enthusiasts in the field? For example, if you’re intimately familiar with making pottery and want to write a story around this idea, you might want to decide if you’re writing for lovers of pottery-making who will identify with and appreciate fine distinctions and subtle nuances, or for a broader audience who might appreciate learning some aspects of pottery-making. What about if you examine the subject metaphorically or allegorically rather than literally?
- Be careful with assumed knowledge – When you know a subject intimately, it can often be difficult to gauge the level of knowledge you can assume your reader has in the topic. If you assume they know more than they do, you might leave them behind; if you assume they know less, you might burden them with detail they already know.
- Be realistic about your own expertise – When writing about something you know, it will pay to be realistic about what you don’t know on the subject. It could be unwise to assume you won’t need to research or consult or check facts.
- Be careful with preaching – It may well be your intention to use your narrative to preach from a certain perspective or about a particular idea, but if it isn’t, be careful that you maintain an appropriate level of balance in the narrative.
- Be careful with privileged language – If you intend on using language that only some readers will understand or recognize, you could consider providing appropriate context to make the meanings clear, or providing a glossary, or footnotes. (See also the section on Technical Language)
- Keep the level of fine detail appropriate to the narrative – It’s often tempting when you know something very well to fill your narrative with a level of detail which demonstrates how much you know. This is fine if the narrative calls for it, but otherwise barrages the reader with non-essential material that can make the story heavy or dull.