So, what should you write about? When you are a new writer, the world feels like a sweetshop, with an alluring array of sweets to tempt you. Which sweet should you pick? The familiar peda? Or the wonderfully coloured and imaginatively shaped sweet with the deliciously exotic name?
Some people like to write about worlds whose contours are already familiar to them. There is a sense of security when you do that, like sinking into a chair that has adapted itself to the shape of your body. There are others who like to jump off the high board, straight into the deep end of the swimming pool. Both these choices come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing to write on a completely new topic can be hugely liberating for any writer, but particularly for a new writer, still finding her feet in the world of writing. The world lies before you and you are free to create a universe of your choice, people it with characters you like and give it a history that you have woven. What could be better?
Writing about the familiar world can be wonderfully encouraging for a new writer. The terrain is familiar and so is the language. And within the limits set by these, the writer can play all she wants. The first story I wrote was about a school play and friends; a world that was familiar to me not only from the vivid memories of my own childhood, but also because I worked in a school at that time. Of course the characters were my own creation and so was the plot, but the familiarity of the setting was wonderfully reassuring and I used my close knowledge of it to create a fun story. Since then I have returned often to schools as the setting of stories, using the petty rivalries and the dynamics that govern a group to focus on individuals who either use these or fight these to establish their own identities.
Does that mean I spent the rest of my life writing school stories? Fortunately, no, because I had to quit my job since I was moving away. The move brought new experiences and soon, that is what my stories were based on. And when my son was born, it was like I had been presented with the perfect audience of one. And since a baby couldn’t have understood stories about school, I began writing stories that he would understand. And that was the beginning of my career as a picture book writer.
The great thing about writing is that the more you write, the more new ideas are generated by whatever part of the brain controls the Idea Factory. Every single story you write is preparation for the ten stories that lie around the corner, in the Land of the Future. And so, whether you choose to write about the familiar world or enjoy the buzz of creating your own world, what really matters is your dedication and your determination to present the world in all its details.
And these will help you decide exactly what you should write. And when.