Writing Advice From Dave Grohl: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”

From a New York Times Inside the List interview by Elizabeth Egan headlined “Dave Grohl Has Some Writing Advice You Need to Hear”:

How does a musician become a best-selling author? For Dave Grohl — frontman of the Foo Fighters, formerly of Nirvana — the evolution started in an unlikely place. “When the pandemic hit, I was suddenly left with nothing to do and that scared the [expletive] out of me,” he said. “I panicked and started an Instagram page called @davestruestories, and I began writing in this short story format.” Grohl made a list of experiences he wanted to explore, including “jamming with Bowie or Prince,” his audition for Nirvana and the time he got hit in the head with a golf club when he was a kid.

“Once I realized the pandemic was going to last a while, that’s when I approached my manager and said, ‘Hey, maybe it’s time to write a book,’” he recalled. The experience wasn’t all that different from what he’s been doing for more than three decades: “When you make a record, you have a collection of songs. You start recording. You start to hear the tone of the album, and then it’s a matter of finding the perfect sequence from beginning to end. That’s what happened as I was writing these stories: I started to realize what was the first song, what was the last song, what was Side A, what was Side B, what I needed, what I didn’t have, what I had too much of.”

Eventually, Grohl had to make peace with the fact that his memoir couldn’t accommodate every anecdote he wanted to include. “I got 350 pages in and I hadn’t even mentioned the Foo Fighters yet, a band I’ve been in for 26 years,” he said, adding, “When you’re making a huge pot of chili, you could sit there pouring spices into it all day long. But at some point, you just have to stop and let it stew.”

“The Storyteller” debuted at No. 1 on the hardcover nonfiction list and is now in its second week at the top of the chart. Grohl seemed genuinely tickled to find himself in this new role as an author — and, whether he realizes it or not, he now has solid wisdom to offer fellow ink-stained wretches. His musical mantra, “Never erase, always record,” also applies in the literary realm, where self-editing is a surefire creativity killer.

“There’s an old saying: Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” Grohl said. “Because with any song, you want to keep the listener engaged. And I would imagine it’s the same when it comes to writing. But that being said, what the [expletive] do I know? I’ve never done this before!”

Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of “A Window Opens.”

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