Immersion. It’s one of those things I’ve always done before writing anything non-fiction. It’s also what I try to do when I’m writing fiction. Of course it means different things depending on what I’m writing.
For example, with non-fiction, I certainly don’t know everything. I never will as I’m forever a student. It was Socrates who said that admitting one’s ignorance was the beginning of wisdom. After all, you can’t learn from a place where you think you know everything.
When it comes to magick and spirituality, there’s always something new to learn no matter how long you’ve been practicing. So when I’m writing non-fiction I immerse myself. Right now, for example, I’m currently immersed in alchemy. From late 2006-2013, I was immersed in Daemonolatry Necromancy not to mention the fact that I’ve had the gift of seeing and speaking with spirits since I was a small child (longer than some folks have been alive even).
From the beginning of 2013 and through April, I was immersed in Her Demon Lover. Though that was a different type of immersion. That particular immersion didn’t include working ritual after ritual or studying and doing research and talking to people far more experienced than I. No, with fiction I immerse myself in the world of my characters. I think about them and their story while driving, I talk to my friends and husband about their story over dinner or lunch, and I discuss them with my co-workers. My mom and I will ruminate over them at the gym, and sometimes they keep me up at night – just like with non-fiction the rituals and The Work sometimes keeps me up at night. Contrary to what some folks may say, writing is never just about the writing no matter what you’re writing.
In a lot of ways, writing is about exploring something to a point where you understand it well enough to communicate it to a reader. It’s also about exploring the topic and the experience you gain from the process of exploration. Whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, it really does come down to experience.
This leads me to that age old writing advice that some writers curse and others embrace, “Write what you know.”
I believe the quote may have come from Mark Twain. I first wrote about my thoughts on the subject in an article called, “Write What You Know: It’s Not A Limitation” for an online writing magazine some years back.
The general gist of the article was this: Some writers find “write what you know” rather limiting. They assume it means that you should stick to one thing and pen it to death. While that may work for a mystery writer who is a coroner or detective in real life, it may not be so feasible for the mystery writer who simply has a great imagination and a love for detective stories. So what is the latter type of mystery writer to do?
Well, learn, of course.
This is why you’ll hear of writers who actually interview and do ride along’s with police detectives, or they’ll spend time with their local coroner.
With non-fiction, especially of the magick and spirituality type, you can actually learn things, immerse yourself, do The Work, and learn through experience. When you do this – you begin to know it. In this instance, “write what you know” is fantastic advice because it challenges the writer to learn something new, or to take their existing skills or knowledge to the next level. That’s what I did with my necromancy immersion that produced three books (four if you count the color tablets). I took my existing skills to the next level. My books are now being used to train Daemonolatry funerary priests. Yes, even the people who have dedicated their lives to Daemonolatry Necromancy and who have been practicing the art longer than I’ve been alive, found my books on the topic both enlightening and useful.
You’ll notice I write all of my non-fiction books from the viewpoint of a Daemonolatress and have written all of my books in that field with that particular bend to them. It’s because that is my spiritual leaning. It’s what I know. This includes my books about magick and necromancy. There’s good reason I’m respected as a magician, necromancer and Daemonolatress and that’s because I’m known for doing the work.
I write what I know.
When I set a story in Ireland, I’ve been there. When I have characters riding horses through forests, it’s because I’ve done it. When I write a sword fighting scene in a fantasy novel, it’s because I’ve done that, too. Yes dear readers – I practiced fencing and epee for a few years in my twenties. I was a championship winning equestrian in my youth. I am in a D/s relationship. I have experienced paranormal activity myself, and investigated it for others. I have worked with police detectives on occult related cases in the past. I grow my own magickal plants, I practice real laboratory alchemy. I make 99% of all my own magickal mixtures (and have for years!). I regularly talk to dead loved ones and friends who have passed.
No, I’m not all knowing. Yes, I still have plenty to learn. But be assured that when I write about Daemonolatry, necromancy, or magick — it’s because I’ve done it and I’ve immersed myself in it.
Be assured that I write what I know and I’m not afraid to modify what I write as that knowledge grows and changes (as it undoubtedly will). I am also not so arrogant to think I’m the ONLY person who knows about a certain thing or who has certain gifts. I have always encouraged those with gifts for seeing or communicating to follow up on that and hone their skills, and to take those skills and apply them to their own spiritual paradigm, just as I encourage ALL writers to take write what you know as a challenge to learn more, explore more, and experience more.
In summary, writing what you know is fabulous writing advice because if you don’t know, you can immerse yourself and learn. Of course some writers say “Write what you Love” and I think that’s fantastic advice, too. After all – if I didn’t love what I wrote, I’d never write it to begin with. It takes a great deal of passion to write hundreds of pages on a story or any one topic. Because if you love something, clearly you know it well enough to love it, otherwise why would you love it?
As the quote from Laozi goes… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”