Priorities, by Sarah Dooley
When I was fifteen, I wrote a story from the point of view of a 32-year-old woman (and how grown and wise she seemed to me at the time!) named Patsey. I was obsessed with the story. I lived and breathed it and, if my best friend Stacie is to be believed, I even talked about it in my sleep.
But I had a concern. At a student writing ceremony, I had been cautioned, "Write what you know." Having never been a 32-year-old woman (those were the days!), I was afraid of breaking this writing rule by trying to write from Patsey's POV.
"I don't know how to be 32," I told my mother and best writing coach. (News flash, kid: You never will, not even when you're 37.)
My mother was silent for a few seconds. Then she picked up a pencil and sketched a quick shape on the back of a receipt.
"What do you see here?" she asked, pushing the sketch across the table to me.
Being completely obsessed with the animal in question, I immediately answered, "A pretty little pony!"
"No, you don't," she said. "You see lines. None of them are touching. They only hint at the impression of a pony."
My mind was blown. But wasn't I supposed to write what I knew?
"You are writing what you know," my mother reassured me. "You're writing from the point of view of a character you identify with. That doesn't mean you have to be afraid to take a chance or two. I'm not worried about every connection yet, not in your first draft. Give me the impression."