Why do audiences laugh and simultaneously want to die of embarrassment at everything Larry David does? What makes grown men stand on their couches and hurl things at football players on the tv? How could Goethe's Young Werther cause a generation of German youths to consider (and more than a few of them to commit) suicide?
Because we're seeing something in that game, or book, or tv show that we recognize from our own lives. Maybe you know nothing about throwing a football, but you've experienced ambition, struggle, success, and loss.
Author Nathan Englander, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and Hollywood producer Peter Guber all have this in common: they're experts at tapping into their personal experience of universal emotions, and communicating that experience to the rest of us. And as most of them will tell you, this at least as much a habit of mind, developed through hard practice, as it is an innate gift.