Back to School Contest (Win a free month!)

The new school year is upon us and even though we may not be students anymore, this time of year will always be about digging in, getting serious and strengthening our work habits. In this spirit, we are giving away one free month of access to theOffice. If you don’t already know, we are a quiet, communal workspace on the westside of LA filled with working screenwriters, journalists, novelists, (actual) students and more. You can learn more about theOffice here.

So if you live in LA and are looking for a place to get inspired and get it done, here’s how to enter:

Just tell us what you’ve learned! Send a tweet to @theOffice_LA with THE BEST LESSON YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL. It could be anything – advice from a teacher, a lesson you learned the hard way, something you remember to this day. Have fun, be clever, share whatever anecdote you like. Hashtag it #bestlessonlearned and be sure to mention @theOffice_LA in your tweet so we get it. We’ll choose our favorite and announce the winner on Twitter. Done!

You’ve got until September 15th. One lucky winner will win a free month of full business hours access to the space. So, eternal students, what’s the best lesson you learned in school?

  • Current members of theOffice are not eligible
  • Don’t forget to mention @theOffice_LA at the end of your tweet
  • Use the tag #bestlessonlearned somewhere in your tweet
  • This is for LA residents only. Please don’t enter unless you’ll actually benefit from using theOffice. Go here to learn more about theOffice and even get a free week of access.
  • Contest ends September 15th, 2015. We’ll choose a winner and announce via Twitter on the 16th

Go on. What’d you learn? School us!

Elizabeth Gilbert Says a Kitchen Timer Can Make You A Writer

“Do you want to be a writer? A musician? An artist? A maker of any sort or variety whatsoever?

Do you long to express yourself, to create, to innovate, to (as Kurt Vonnegut taught us yesterday) ‘experience becoming’?imgres

Well, then. Today I introduce you to the most important tool in your arsenal: The humble kitchen timer.

Do you own one of these? If you don’t own one, can you afford to go out and buy one? Do you maybe have a more modern interpretation of this device already on your smartphone?

Good.

Now here is what you do. At some point today, you sit down and set that timer for 30 minutes. Work on your craft or your project without interruption or distraction. Doesn’t have to be major work — just has to be focused work. Don’t get up from your seat until the timer dings. Then do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day…

The immortal John Updike once said, ‘Some of the best books in the world were written in an hour a day.’

I disagree. You can do it in 30 minutes.”

Read the rest of this post on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website.

George Saunders on Fiction

“Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another; rather, it teaches us to abide with the fact that, in their own way, all things are true, and helps us, in the face of this terrifying knowledge, continually push ourselves in the direction of Open the Hell Up.”

George Saunders

Parks and Recreation Showrunner on Naming Characters

“We had a rule at “Parks and Rec” that every character had to have a first and last name regardless of whether they had one line or no lines — any casting had to have a complete name. It was such a pain in the ass but it was so fun. We got so invested in crazy names that there were times we couldn’t come up with a Parks_and_recreation_season_1_castnormal name. Justin Theroux played a character in season two who was a love interest for Leslie and we just named him Justin. It was like, “What’s his last name?” It took us four hours and what we settled on was Anderson. Then later that year we had Louis C.K. on to also play a love interest for Leslie and we were going to name him Louis. But he had just sold his show and he said, “My show is called ‘Louie,’ it might be weird.” So we said, “Alright, his name is Dave.” But again it took us four hours for his last name, and we settled on Sanderson.”

Mike Schur in Variety

Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

cc553d8e51a057eb231dadf45b6c303b“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”

Julian Barnes

DAN HARMON TELLS YOU HOW TO PITCH A TV SHOW

“This is how you do a good pitch: Remember when you were at that party and you asked someone if they had seen Game of Thrones because it’s your favorite show? And they said, ‘No I’ve never seen Game Of Thrones,’ and you proceeded to tell them why they should watch it? That’s a good pitch. That’s you selling the show. You’re so enthusiastic about it, you know exactly how long to talk about exactly the right elements of the show. 

When you’re pitching, when you’re trying to come up with an idea for a show, picture yourself sitting in front of a television. Start with this image. Start with the image of your face going, ‘Holy shit! Oh my God, this is the most amazing show I’ve ever seen, I’m going to watch every episode of this. I love this show.’ Now flip the camera and reveal what’s on the TV. What would make you do that?”

From the Nerdist Writers Panel Episode 107

Hear it the excerpt here.

The Coen Brothers on When to Stop Rewriting

According to reddit, this mini-essay was published as a preface in the Coen Brother’s script for Blood Simplebartonfink_01

How much rewriting is enough? How much is too much? When do you quit?

Even did he wish to, the critic couldn’t answer, for he doesn’t know. He might believe that you quit revising a manuscript when it is “right.” He might also believe that a bell sounds on the floor of the stock exchange when the Dow has reached its high of the day. Neither will the professional writer tell you the rule for when to stop writing, because he is insecure, fearful of giving up trade secrets and losing his competitive edge. We’ll tell you, because we’re in the movie business and so our careers depend on public caprice rather than the play of competitive market forces. The rule is, you quit rewriting when your manuscript starts to bore you. Only the amateur, who has boundless energy and who lacks the imagination to stop, ever works beyond that point.

Consult, then, your heart. Once your work feels stale and tiresome you should present it to the public. Anyway, that’s what we do.