This is an addendum to this post. (TL;DR: Don't just write what you know; go learn whatever you want to write about.)
For the record, that's still true, but I'm diving a little deeper into the "what you know" part. We all have unique life experiences, and there is value in that. For instance, here's a reasonable representation of all the places I've ever been and want to remember. (And yes, it highlights my inexperience in Spain, South, America, Africa, and Asia. Also, I've only seen France from the middle of Lake Geneva.)
When I wrote about New Zealand, I was hesitant to write about my hometown, Christchurch, because, well, everyone writes about Christchurch. But here's the thing: most people have never been to New Zealand, let alone Christchurch. What's more, my Christchurch is different than the Christchurch a tourist would know.
I used to want to steer my characters away from the places I've lived: NE Ohio, Provo, Utah, Chicago and its suburbs, Seattle. In recent months, I've finally realized that those places are part of my value. Not everyone knows about them.
Likewise, I have taught power yoga, quit a job with a dream but no prospects, toured Australia with a dance troop, lived on the road as a consultant, reigned as Agricola champion* for more than three years**, taught myself an instrument to try out for Ohio State's marching band, and proposed marriage to Microsoft Excel.
And those are just the big things! Throw in all my little life experiences, and you have my unique value as a writer. In fact, it's a gold mine.
*among my quite substantial circle of tabletop friends
**For real! Look:
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: