My Archival Wanderings: W. Somerset Maugham - Writer's Digest

My Archival Wanderings: W. Somerset Maugham

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Hi Writers,
Today, I’m sharing--from our world-renowned archives (see my previous posts)--an excerpt from a piece W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage author) wrote entitled “Write About What You Know” from the December 1943 issue of Writer's Digest.

The fact is that when you write about things you don’t know, you fall into ludicrous errors. Of course, a writer cannot have a firsthand knowledge of everything, but his only safety is to find out everything he can about the subject he proposes to treat. Sometimes he thinks himself to fake things; but to do that with plausibility needs skill and experience, and it isn’t really worth doing, for it is seldom completely convincing; and if the writer cannot convince his readers successfully, then he is done.

Now, the only way I have ever discovered he can do that is to tell the truth, as he sees it, about what he knows; and the point of this statement lies in the words as he sees it. There are no new subjects… but if a writer has personality, he will see the old subjects in a personal way, and that will give them interest. He may try his best to be objective, but his temperament, his attitude toward life, are his own and color his view of things.

So, with all due respect, what do you think? Do you, like W. Somerset Maugham, believe writers should stick to writing what they know?

Keep Writing,


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