Write What You Know. Write What You Feel.

Write what you know. Write what you feel. It’s classic writing advice. Here screenwriter Bill Grundfest and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. offer their thoughts on the importance of writing from your own perspective and from your own personal history.

Bill Grundfest (whose credits include writing and producing Mad About You) on The Writing Show:

So it comes from writing not from your head, but from your guts and from your pain and from your humiliation and all that stuff. And I see a lot of scripts where it involves, ‘And then the police get them in the interrogation room and they interrogate them!’ And I’ll ask the writer, I’ll say, ‘How many interrogations have you been in?’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, none.’ I’ll say, ‘So why are you writing about interrogation rooms? There are people actually who have been in interrogation rooms who are writing about interrogation rooms. But I’m gonna guess that there’s a lot of stuff that you have experienced that only you know. And you can put that stuff in any genre.’

Berry Gordy Jr. talking about The Motown Legacy on Motown 50 podcast:

When we were in the creative business my feeling was ‘Wait a minute – what is the human element?’ And rather than write what somebody else I think they would like, I told the writers and all the people ‘Write what you feel. It’s about YOU. What do you feel? Because you’re a normal person, I’m a normal person.’ So if we write what we feel then we’re not gonna look down on those people and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, we feel this way, we’re gonna write this for these people over here. Or we’re gonna write this ’cause it’s commercial. Or we’re gonna do this…’ I said, ‘No, always stick with what you feel.’

To what extent do your life experiences inform your writing?

1 comment… add one
  • especially for you, with memoir, this is so key. for me, with my fiction, i find the humor in my own humiliations and give those moments to my characters. i also find the pathos in past hurtful experiences, but what i really love writing about and converting into fiction are the times when i totally embarrassed myself. too many to count. i will never run out of material.

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