We've all heard that tired piece of so-called advice: Write what you know. If you go traipsing about the writerly corners of the blogosphere, you'll find a lot of posts about why that's ridiculous.
And it is, especially when taken literally. If my novels were strictly based on things I know (i.e., have experienced), my family should be very worried about me. (Alternate dimensions? Human-alien hybrids? Uh, yeah.)
In some senses, though, I do write what I know, because I use my knowledge in lots of different ways as I write. I have deaf characters in two different projects. Yeah, that's something I know a thing or two about. If I didn't, I don't think I would dare attempt to write them. But there are other ways to gain that knowledge than by day-to-day living it.
I think we all know that we need to do our homework when writing, researching and educating ourselves about various topics that weave their way into the story. In that sense, we will write what we know, only we didn't know it until we needed to write it. (And as a friend recently noted, our search-engine histories can look really ... um ... interesting.)
There's knowledge, and then there's experience. Obviously we write about things we haven't experienced, and in many cases, we never could experience. (Again, crossing dimensions? Or, say, what some catastrophic injury feels like? Or what it's like to murder someone?)
But here's a thought: Are there some things, probably less out of the ordinary than the examples I mentioned, that you really must experience yourself?
A fellow writer recently posited that there are—that certain things will never be written well by a person who hasn't experienced them firsthand. I'm not going to go into it, because I don't want to color the responses.
Can you think of anything? Any at all? Or is the idea a load of hooey?
Make your case, for or against. I'm really curious to see what the general consensus is.