The Surprising Ways Successful Screenwriters Find Inspiration

There’s a spot in my living room that undeniably catches the best morning light. A leather armchair is catty-cornered into it, and if you sit there by window, you only see my neighbor’s big, leafy tree and not much else, which makes you feel like you’ve temporarily fallen into some tropical oasis of leather chairs and sunlight and leaves. Then you open the window and hear the sounds of waves crashing footsteps beyond, seagulls squawking, palm trees rustling. So this is where I write, right?

Nope.

As I type these words to you now, I’m half in the dark on the other side of my living room—the one with the worst possible light—hunched over my computer, knees tucked behind me, sitting on top of a way-too-expensive Pottery Barn pillow (yay adulthood!), eating half a carrot I found on my kitchen counter five minutes ago and wondering why I don’t sit in that idyllic armchair literally ten feet to my right. The truth is, I have no idea. But at least I’m in good company. Here are six crazy-successful writers on their own weird writing ways: 

Mindy Kaling, as told to Adweek for the publication’s Creative 100 series: “I always write in exactly the same place, which is sitting in my bed, with two pillows behind me. I’ve written 50 television scripts and two books on this one place on my bed! I think the lack of the formality of a desk makes me feel really comfortable, and I’m a creature of habit.”

Kristen Wiig, on co-writing Bridesmaids via The Washington Post: “I went to [co-writer Annie Mumolo]’s house for the first day and she bought like chips and carrots and we had our book [Syd Field’s book on screenwriting] and we’re like …” *Excitedly rubs hands together* As Bridesmaids legend has it, the script came together faster than you could say indigestion-at-a-high-end-bridal-shop: “We knocked out a first draft in six days and handed it to [producer Judd Apatow],” Wiig told The Los Angeles Times. “And we were like, ‘We’re done! Is it good? Is it long enough? Is it too long?'”

Lena Dunham, as explained at a Film Society of Lincoln Center event on comedy writing: “I’ve literally found that sleeping well, and eating three meals, and exercising occasionally is the best thing that you can do as a writer. And read. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.”

Diablo Cody via ScriptFest: “I’m most productive when I leave the house. I used to go to Starbucks when I lived in the Midwest, but I don’t like doing that in L.A. because it’s such a corny writer scene. Sometimes I go to Soho House and write at the ping-pong table. If I write at home, I’m probably just on the couch eating Taco Bell like a slob. My eldest son tells everyone, “My mama works on a couch.”

And, because she’s the quintessential fairy godmother of excellence in romantic comedy screenwriting, Nora Ephron: “I don’t have much of a routine. I go through periods where I work a great deal at all hours of the day whenever I am around a typewriter, and then I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day. I never have been able to stick to a schedule. I work when there is something due or when I am really excited about a piece.”

So there you have it. Exercise. Don’t exercise. Sit on your couch. Get into bed. Go for a run. Eat your veggies. Eat your fast food and cookies. Why? Because it seems the birthplace of good writing is actually wherever you say it should be.

[MELISSA MARNI is a Southern California-based writer and the founder of little word studio. You can follow her musings on Instagram here.]