Write What Only You Know by Ann Haywood Leal

In February we are given a day of possibilities at the beginning, with an extra day at the end during a leap year.  My challenge for everyone this month is to combine Groundhog’s Day where anything can happen, with that gift of an extra day, and write without caring what anyone else thinks.  Write with abandon.  Write as if you have all the time in the world, because you sort of do.  You have that extra day, that anything-can-happen day.
But here’s the only rule:   

Write What Only You Know.

Annie Dillard said,  “A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.  Strange seizures beset us.  Frank Conroy loves his yo-yo tricks, Emily Dickinson her slant of light….” 

She also asks the thought-provoking question, “Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you avert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you.  There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain.  It is hard to explain, because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.”

You can make something interesting to your readers because of your own fascination with it. 

What are the everyday things that intrigue you?

Think about sitting in a restaurant or in a train station, or on the subway.  What makes you give a person a longer-than-usual look?  Why are you drawn to that person?  Is it their distinct, unusual beauty?  Maybe.  But more likely it’s something else—because you are a writer.  Maybe they have a bald spot on the side of their head that they are trying to cover.  But it’s not a man’s comb-over.  It’s a woman’s.  You take it one step further, because you are a writer.

What foods are you drawn to?

What places fascinate you so much, you want to stop your car—even though it might not be a convenient or a safe place to stop it?

You take the everyday--something you encounter or pass each day, and point it out in your writing. 

Chances are, you have no idea why you are drawn to certain foods or people or places or events.  You just are.  But that draw is your key.  You write about it, and you make these fascinations your readers’, as well. 

(Remember, you’ve got that extra day here.  You can take your time.)  Dare to take the mundane and sneak it to the forefront.  But do it as only you can do.  Forgive me for massacring a line from “Field of Dreams”, but … If you write it, they will read.


  1. This is so incredible. This is EXACTLY how you build your authorial voice.

  2. Write what we alone love at all. . . thanks so much for sharing this wonderful line from Annie D.


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