Write what you know, right?

One of the many guidelines of writing is writing about what you know, but I’ve always wondered does that extend to race as well. Could I write about an Irish American family? Would it be wrong of me to write about a Mexican family although I’m African American? Does this extend to gender as well? Many of my protagonists are male, with the exception of a few stories, but do I have to stop writing them because I identify as female?

It’s something that’s been on my mind since my creative writing class I took in high school. I wrote a story that reflected my life and after I read an excerpt of it I was accused of giving an inaccurate depiction of life for a middle class African American family. At the time it surprised me because I followed the guidelines. I wrote about something I knew about, but it wasn’t accepted very well.
Should I have changed it? I wondered if I should have wrote something that others could agree about or write something new so I can have a different perspective on it. Is it possible to write a story where everyone will agree on? I know that writing outside of something you know requires research and there’s still something someone can miss.

One of my biggest questions since I started writing has been is it better to stay in your comfort zone or to branch out?

I do a little bit of both, but I wonder what works better for other writers or bloggers.

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