Teach Empathy

screenwriting, storytelling, T.V. writing

I have a day job: I teach empathy.

I write action scripts and I write comedy and I write novels and I do all this shit but the reality is — my job is to teach empathy.

Story’s job is to allow us to feel the feelings of others. Our job is to craft the story so that we see through another’s eyes, so that, given enough context and circumstances and choices, we understand how it feels to be another human being. Stories teach empathy.

Your job is to teach empathy.

Even in the darkest, most life-denying piece — you set up a world that helps your audience feel despair. So that when they leave the theater and encounter a person who lives in despair, they see themselves in that person. They’ve had that person’s experience, in the world of your darkest, most life-denying piece. You’ve given them a touchstone of recognition, added to their emotional lexicon. You’ve taught empathy.

Every kind of story teaches us empathy — comedy, drama, light, dark. What matters is we feel what someone else feels. Every kind of story has an emotional heart, a character whose feelings we make our own.

Failures of empathy underlie most of the problems we face as human beings. Sharing stories with one another — teaching each other empathy — can set us straight.

What kind of asshole am I? I sit around lecturing people they don’t have enough empathy.

  • New Blog Post: Teach Empathy http://bit.ly/dr6aQB

  • david Gould

    Been sending writers — new ones, blocked ones, old ones — to your site here for inspiration, insight, and a kick in the ass. Reading about writing, or good writing about writing rather, can really cut through the head mess we writers tend to fester in. Thanks again Julie for writing this blog. I came here right now at 5:00 am to score a little writer dope to get me through this outline.

    • juliebush

      Thanks so much David. Your support and encouragement on this means a lot to me — I fell asleep on the sofa last night with my laptop in my lap trying to figure out a new post. I feel self-conscious about lecturing, sounding pedantic — because in the end — what do I know? Nothing. But on the other hand, I write a lot, which brings up stuff that I feel would be useful to a lot of people. Both emotional and writing in nature, which in the end is all the same.
      I’m so excited about your new gig. I’ll send you an email and say more.
      Julie

  • @julie_bush #sonsofanarchy keeping you busy, i'm sure, but really liked last Empathy post. encore! http://juliebush.net/teach-empathy.html

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