Stuart Dybek, one of America’s great contemporary writers, and my creative writing instructor during my years at Western Michigan University, often told us in class to “write about what you know about.” At the time, outside of being a creative writing student, I was a baseball player who, due to my writing background, was probably the only guy on the team who could have spelled the word soccer correctly at the time. In the early 80’s, the game was relegated in American gym class with other sports like Swedish handball or rugby. As baseball players, we turned our noses up at any guy in the locker room who said he played soccer.
Today, I’m thankful, on account of my son’s interest, that my wife signed me up to be his soccer coach in a recreation league back in 1992 when he was six. From there, I began a learning odyssey of the game, one which led me to study under former world class players like Jordan Mitkov and Falah Hassan, to creating my own youth soccer travel club. During my fifteen years of on the job training, I was able to learn all the intricacies and nuances of the game, details which allowed a depth of knowledge I was confident enough in to write about.
When it came time for the story, St. John of the Midfield, to finally burn out of me, the soccer related scenes came about easily since I personally experienced them all in some way or another. I was writing from first hand experience; from playing, to coaching, or, from being a referee. Readers have told me the soccer scenes are some of the best they’ve ever read. As a writer, you’re never tired of hearing comments like that from your audience.
Professor Dybek would, I’m sure, be impressed that one of his students actually listened to him. Writing about what you know about is the most important part of the methodology on the craft of writing I subscribe to. In this case, it has proven to serve me well. However, my wife Vicki has warned me not to get Melvellian and desire to write something about working on a whaling boat.
My response to her simply was, “Then don’t sign me up.”
You can find out more about St. John of the Midfield at his website.