Ricky Gervais Tells A Story About How He Learned To Write

In this first installment of Creation Stories, Ricky Gervais shares a doozy about an early, indelible writing lesson.

Note: This article is included in our year-end storytelling advice round-up.

Anyone who reads (nay, experiences), Co.Create with any regularity will recognize storytelling as one of the throughlines. Whether we're talking about marketing or movies, storytelling is one of the most mentioned words, one of the core concepts.

Stories are an elemental form of human communications; they are how we understand each other and the world. And, not for nothing, they are fun. With that in mind, we wanted to bring you ... stories! Creation Stories are stories from the minds and mouths of some of the most creative people around--stories that entertain while shedding some light on the creative process.

Here, in the inaugural episode, Ricky Gervais (whose new Netflix series, Derek, debuts September 12) shares a story about an early creative turning point that forever informed the way he writes and works. It has to do with a teacher, a cheeky kid who maybe watched too much TV, an elderly neighbor and an unexpected creative lesson. Of course, it being Ricky Gervais, he delivers the story with some inimitable extras. Watch it above.

[Photos by Joel Arbaje for Fast Company]

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23 Comments

  • Jeez, everyone calm down. The idea of real people, telling real stories, in real space and time, is not only appealing to me but I also think their intention was to evoke that through the tone of the video. I think it served its purpose - no fancy editing or cinematography needed. I loved his story and his message, and I think the new "Creation Stories" model is rather genius - very excited for more.

  • Martin Adolfsson

    The edit/shooting is so distracting that it's really hard to focus on what he actually talks about. Please don't overdo it next time.

  • Michael Guilfoyle

    Please keep the camera still, the shots simple and let the action make it vivid. Makes it hard to concentrate on the subject. Otherwise the shots look nice, lighting is spot on, the sound is great, the composition good. Let the subject matter be the action not the camera.

  • Billie Smith

    "Write what you know" is great advice when learning to write a creative piece. Because, once you know how to write, you will know the kind of details you have to include in whatever you write about.

  • Mandy Pinetown

    The "write what you know" mantra isn't to write about people, places or things you actually know. It's writing about what YOU know that makes YOU interested... so science fiction definitely falls into this.

    Many characters reflect the people YOU know in your life, or the people you wish you knew. It's all about your preference... what you like... what ya know... what you know!

  • Warnie

    This would've been a great interview with about 6 or 7 more moving cameras and funky angles. Also, I saw a GoPro in the background, but was saddened that Mr Gervais didn't have one strapped to his head. I needed his POV to have his story really SPEAK to me. 

    Also, what about a jib? Surely there was room to squeeze in a jib shot between the slide and the crash-zoom pull focus? Shame.

  • Terry Jaymes

    Ricky has nailed it. It's always been about being genuine and honest. The web gets WAY too much credit for changing the world. It's noisy, and filled with people desperately trying to be the next big thing. The REAL people will rise like cream to the top.

    Thanks Ricky

  • Guest

    that
    Science Fiction is necessary and serves as a mirror of society we mustn’t
    forget what is real and how the real people can identify themselves only with
    the truth.  

  • Douglas Eby

    It may be advice often given to writers, but is the idea to “write what you know” always understood, and valuable for creating good work? Writer Nathan Englander says that 'write what you know’ is one of the best and most misunderstood pieces of advice, ever. “It paralyzes aspiring authors into thinking that authenticity in fiction means thinly veiled autobiography." - From post: Should You Write What You Know? http://blogs.psychcentral.com/...

  • Mj

    I took that advice from a Writer;s Digest story when I
     realized I was a crushing failure at children's writing.
    What did I know, dirt bikes and the male psyche. I started with "My First Bike" the story o fhow long it took me to get my first dirt bike in the face of poverty, parents who thoguht bikes were death traps and my friends who took me in and showed me otherwise. In time I became a top journalist for the sport and with the pinnacle being penning the biography of Hall of Fame former racer Steve Wise of McAllen Texas. I'm currently pursuing a screenwriting career and still writing what I kwn and am passionate about, UFOs and the coverups behind them. Plz peep and like my page https://www.facebook.com/Roswe...   a producer is interested and YOUR interest and spreading the word could get this in the theaters by next year. :-) <3 blessings. And KEEP WRITING, your passion for the subject will shine through.

  • Guest

    Science fiction serves a valuable purpose, creating something that doesn't exist.  Inventing rather than "writing what you know"