Don't know why but I've been pondering these two recently but they keep kickboxing round my head. If I must write what I know then can I only write about women who've just entered middle age? The ones who juggle family, work and time for themselves.
Hold on. What's that last one again? Oh I remember, when I could stay up all night for four nights in a row and it was OK because I could curl up in bed and recover all weekend. Me.e.e.emoreees.
So do I write about that type of woman? Sometimes. But I write about lots of others too. So what makes me think I can understand what it's like being someone else?
I think I have to go back to that phrase "Write what you know." Do I really think I can't write about being 20yrs older? Well I can remember how I was at 20yrs younger and that hasn't changed much. A few corners knocked off and the casings a bit faded but I still feel the same.
And I think that's the key. Feelings. We've all run the gamut of them in our lives. Is it so hard to empathise with someone of any age feels walking into a crowded room to be ignored? Or when they receive praise after battling to achieve something?
There will be differences in how people respond to those emotions due to the society they were formed in (be it geographically different or in time). Also differences due to gender. But can't these be identified by observation or research?
Personally I love to people watch. I'm lucky that my alter-ego deals with people from all over the world so I get to see quite a range. And I love those differences.
I've chatted about hill farming and childhood on a train with an Indian lady who grew up under the British Raj. I've talked to naval cadets heading home from their first stint away and an actor who'd just finished his first time on a film set.
I've had my ear bent by an old man convinced Maggie Thatcher was trying to bump off the Royals and two blokes from Liverpool who'd had a dry flight back from the Middle East and just wanted to get to their local pub. I've also had gross out competitions with my son and his mates. I WIN.
But how successful have I been at getting into someone else's head? Well I've sold stuff with a younger woman, won stuff with older men, been shortlisted with young men to old women. A good mix.
I've also let people read my work from the groups I'm writing about and they haven't laughed me out the room, yet. One even wondered how I managed to get in a man's head so well. How could I not? There's so much room in there. Sorry. Couldn't resist.
I do choose not to get into some heads. I wrote a very dark piece once about an abusive relationship. I'd not been in one myself but let my characters run loose and didn't edit or censor it. Someone who had been in that type of relationship then read my piece. I was surprised when she said I'd captured the situation well but it was very disturbing to write and not something I particularly want to repeat.
So what am I trying to say? That maybe hiding away in the garret isn't so hot for your writing. Get down that pub. Go to that party. Get involved in things. Don't stick your earphones in when you're on a plane, bus or train. Talk instead.
Go on then. Stop reading this post and get out there.