Sorry to say it, but it is. I know you don't want to hear this. You think, "But that's what everyone tells me I should do." Most often, what they're telling you is wrong. That's right, I said it.
People say "Write what you know" a lot. Either they are telling you to do what it says and write on the topics that you know, because you know them. Or they're telling you to ignore the stupid saying and write what you want. But the saying shouldn't be taken so damn literally.
I'm totally stealing this from my screen writing teacher, by the way. In class one day, he brought up the saying and then said, "'Write what you know' doesn't mean write about a college student who works at Best Buy. 'Write what you know' means write those emotions you know."
That bears repeating: Write what you know means write the emotions you know.
That's it guys! The true meaning of how to write what you know! Everyone has felt jealous, angry, happy, elated, nervous whatever. What my teacher told us was to take those emotions as fuel for our scripts. He wasn't telling everyone to write about the experiences we'd had, but of course you can. Just that your writing can extend beyond ourselves and into the lives of others. So what if you're not a 72-year-old woman with a cute dog? That doesn't mean you can't write that convincingly. If you are true to the feelings you know, whatever you're writing isn't going to come off as fake or forced.
I'm not saying this is easy by any stretch of the imagination. It may take some work for you to really dig in and grasp this and implement it well. But if you practice and really work at trying to write true emotions that you know, your writing will soar. People will relate. And that is the best feeling in the world.
Then go and use that feeling to write something else.
What do you guys think? Does this make sense to you? Let me know in the comments.