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Arts & Entertainment

Life of a Writer

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 8:08 min

Writing is not just a profession; it is a way of life. Shonda discusses the issue of "work/life balance" and the physical and mental habits to survive a writer's life.

Shonda Rhimes
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The sentence I don't like the most to hear from people is, I want to be a writer. You either are a writer or you're not a writer. You may not be a working writer, but you either are a writer or you're not a writer. It's like when people say I want to be a singer. Either you can sing or you can sing, right? You either be write or you don't. So to me it's just, you're a writer. Go write. Prove yourself to be a writer. Nobody has to pay you in order to write. You have to just find the time and do it. Even if you have like, five kids and you work a job, you can find 10 minutes a day to write something down. Really, you really can. And it doesn't have to be the greatest thing in the world. You don't have to be the most thrilled by it. But you have to be able to access your creative space even just 10 minutes a day for yourself, even if you're just waiting for people to like-- your kids, put them all in the bathtub and you write for 10 minutes a day. Or you're on the subway, you write for 10 minutes a day. Whatever it is, find yourself a little bit of time to write every single day. I'm sure there are excuses that are acceptable for not writing every day, absolutely. But once again, I say a writer is someone who writes every day. So if you're not going to write every day, then you cannot call yourself a writer. You just can't. And it's fine, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just, it's the idea that you need to make peace with that reality. You can decide that you're not going to write every day, and there is nothing wrong with not writing every day. But then don't run around and call yourself an aspiring writer, because if you really wanted to be a writer, that is what you would be doing. I don't think you ever find a work-life balance. And I think it's a falsehood to make anybody feel like they're supposed to find a work-life balance. There's no good way to be a great mother and to be great at your job at the same time and to feel like you are going to kill it at both and be amazing at both and never feel guilty about shirking one duty or another. Work-life balance is a lie that we are fed to make us feel bad about ourselves, I feel like. It doesn't exist. There are always going to be times when you feel like a terrible mother, and there are always going to be times when you feel like you're terrible at your job. That is just how it goes. Also for most women, going to work is not an option. So I always feel like this how do you achieve work-life balance thing is really disingenuous. Most women have to go to work to feed their families, to pay their bills. I am fortunate that I have a great job and I'm excited, but most women have to go to work to feed their families and pay their bills. So I wouldn't suggest that it's sort of like a work-life balance thing is a choice, it's not a choice. You h...

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When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.


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A profound introduction to writing for TV, while offering a wealth of knowledge and insight.

Extremely inspiring and it's nice to know the tricks of the trade. See yall in Hollyworld:)

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How does one woman do so much? She makes it sound so easy. There's something so grounded and powerful about Shonda Rhimes.


Vanessa M.

There's a lot of great things in this lesson and in this class, but I don't agree that you have to write every day to call yourself a writer. What about the people who have a chronic illness or disability and physically can't write everyday? Are they not writers? What about people who prefer to write in batches/blocks a few times a week? They're not writers? For me, I don't take in everything someone teaches in a class no matter how successful they are; we all define success differently anyway. I'll take what works for me and leave the rest. However, I think there's a little bit of a danger when someone who is seen as super successful (like Shonda) talks in absolutes. "You have to write everyday or you can't call yourself a writer" is an absolute she says, which I don't think is true, but someone who completely admires/adores her and looks up to her, will truly take it to heart and can end up feeling like a failure and/or loser because they haven't been able to write everyday. Same is true for writers who say you have to write XX amount of words per day or write for XX amount of hours a day. We're all different, we all have different circumstances in life and what works for one person may or may not work for another, which is why I don't think it's helpful to speak in absolutes. Just my two cents.

Jessica T.

I currently work two jobs and I squeeze in the writing when I can, which is usually at my night job and/or late at night (I don't get much sleep, which I know isn't good, but ehh). Between that and my son's extracurricular activities sometimes the time for actual writing gets short, but if I'm not actually writing, I'm surely thinking about it; plotting, planning and all that. I keep notebooks in my purse or make notations on my phone when I think of a new idea or a change I want to make to a current project. So if I'm not able to write, I'm working on the writing.

Graeme R.

Such excellent messages for women and men. I wish I could just share Shonda's advice with all the diffident young women that I encourage.

ernest C.

i know what you mean; i feel uncomfortable when i haven't written. i feel like a person who has "lost' something of value and can't find it when i need it! that's what i feel like when i don't write. even the work i do now, feels rewarding because i get to write everyday.


Ms. Rhimes doesn't mention how important it is to have the gift of gab, which she has.


I liked all those bits about enjoying your accomplishments, but I have to disagree about the writing each day presented in that absolute way. I'm most definitely a writer and there isn't a day I'm not doing anything about my writing (rare holidays excluded), but I'm a block writer, I write continuously until my draft is finished and then there's times where I only do editing, plotting or marketing. So, I'm doing some writer related stuff 99% of the days but I'm not writing every day and it is something that just doesn't work for me. Doesn't make me any less of a writer.

Kara J.

Shonda has dubbed everyone who fancies putting pen to paper a writer. We can now carry on with our respective titles of Sir Writer, or Dame Writer.

Monya W.

I love this lesson, so glad I decided to take this class. I have learned and began to understand writing in a different light. Thank you for sharing and being so open. :-)

Phil H.

The clarification should be "If you want to be a professional writer, write every day." It's like Nanowrimo's 1667 words a day. That is the minimum if you wish to be a professional, quit your day job and only write. And even then, you might want to hang on to the day job for a bit. I have a friend who makes 1000,000 a year but she turns out the equivalent of 2 books a month. It takes work. Her favorite line is "I'm so glad I don't have a life. God, I need a PA."

Whitney W.

Very interesting that she says " you HAVE to write every day to be a writer" I know of some writers who don't write every day. However, maybe she's talking more along the lines of writer SOMETHING. I'm sure even for those writers who don't actually write their script every day but maybe work in sprints instead they are still creating and taking down ideas etc. In one of the other videos, she talked about the work will be there the next day. So, are people who prefer to block off large amounts of time once or twice a week to work on there writing not writers? It's very interesting to hear her opinion.