Write what you know. It's often a good place for beginners to start, but it can also be limiting advice. Maybe the key is to write a story only you can tell. There's a reason why so many doctors, lawyers and cops bring their real-life experiences to TV and film, right? I don't think you should spend ten years on a career diversion to observe things, but I do think you might consider what special skills, talents, perspectives and experiences you bring to your writing. Maybe it's the perfect real-life setting, or a knowledge of a unique art form, or the intricacies of an interesting job. Maybe it's an entire concept - or just some really authentic details. We love true stories. Whenever I pitch things to people and mention that it's something from my own life, I feel like people always perk up.
Here's something I hadn't yet realized when I posted about this back in '08. We always think our ideas are really original, but in actuality, producers and executives have been pitched many incarnations of the same ideas over and over. Infusing your idea with something that really happened to you might be the way to make your project the most interesting version - and your experiences can also make you an attractive choice for existing projects. When I was a the agency, I'd hear agents champion the unique qualities of their clients to sell them as the perfect pick. Joe is a single dad! John plays hockey! Rachel is a total slut! (Okay, maybe not that one.) But you might as well use any unique traits you have to your advantage.