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Arts & Entertainment

Writing a Script: Effective Habits

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:52 min

Writer's block? No time? Shonda breaks through the myths of writing and details how exactly she gets her writing done.

Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
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So to me, a lot of what writing is, is very much like being a runner. If you don't run every day, running is incredibly hard. Those muscles do not know what they're doing. If you exercise those muscles, those muscles have muscle memory. So if you run every day running becomes a lot easier, right? It's the same with writing. So to me I always have this idea of writing as being like there's a long hallway to the door, where when the door opens that's when I access the place where it is to just easily get to the creative space. Until I get to that door, I'm basically just sitting at my desk staring at the wall, feeling really bitter and sorry for myself. And to me, when I think of that hall, if you're jogging down that hall trying to get to that door, the hall is incredibly long and it's filled with candy and pictures of Idris Elba and phone calls I need to make and television shows I need to watch and times I need to sit around and feel sorry for myself. And then finally, you get to the door and it takes forever. But the more I go down that hall, the less interested I am in the food and the Idris and the phone calls and the pity. And I get to the door faster and faster and faster. Until now, because I do it every day and the muscle memory is really there at honed, I get to that door immediately. So it's not a big deal trying to get to the door anymore. Because like a runner, I'm like perfectly fit mentally in that sense as a writer. And it's the same as being a sprinter or something. I'm good to go. That's what it should be like for people. It should be that if you're exercising that muscle you can get there faster and faster. So the discipline actually has a point. It's helpful. [MUSIC PLAYING] I used to think that there was like a special magic golden hour in which I wrote better than any other time. But that time keeps changing, so I no longer think that that's true. It used to be that I wrote the best at night. It had to be midnight and everybody was asleep and the world felt silent. And now I wake up at 5:00 AM and I get a lot of writing done. But I also write really well in the middle of the day at the office. What's happened is really, is that I started writing while wearing headphones with music blasting in my ears. And now as long as I am wearing headphones with music blasting in my ears, I can write at any time of day, anywhere. Any place becomes my office as long as I have those headphones on. And that is the greatest gift I have given myself. Not purposely, but like some sort of Pavlovian animal, as long as I have headphones, on I can write. What I think is interesting about playing the music in my headphones, and this is just a theory I have, I have no idea if it's true. I think a lot of people think, oh, she listens to music and it inspires her in this way or that way. I don't think so. I think th...

Make Great Television

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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I really benefitted from her practical lessons on working as writer in a writer's room. I was able to develop characters for a mini series I've been working on for three years, and I got more out of this class than in my own college courses.

I thoroughly enjoyed the class. I feel much more confident in how to approach writing and assuaging some of the fears that come from pursuing TV writing. Thanks Shonda!

This is my Fourth Masterclass and definitely one of my favorites! Very inspiring!

Excellent course! I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the nuances of television writing.


Julius C.

I enjoy listening to Shonda Rhimes that I forgot there were assignments that go along with the chapters! I gotta go back and investigate.


About getting unstuck (writers block), I've also heard of just writing whatever comes to mind until you get unstuck, at which point you just delete all the [known] garbage and continue. I believe "writers block" is just a psychological trigger about some artistic idea and how we doubt ourselves reaching that, or we unconsciously go, what's the point. We will never reach that lol, that's where the switching to something else or the writing no matter how awful, allows us to be distracted from said block. If that makes sense.


The theory with the loud music, Shonda is correct. Same why most people would do great writing at Cafes/noisy places (just open your window if your live in NYC lol). It actually allows you to focus more, or get more done because the playful/easily distracted part of your brain is occupied with the music or noises, while your writing brain can focus on doing actual writing.


The computer couldn't handle all the heat it was getting from all those stories.

A fellow student

I know what you are saying is absolutely true. For twenty years I wrote on assignment and had several projects going at once. It was crazy, but I had no problem getting them done. Now, I'm struggling to edit a novel. I need to give myself permission to shift gears. It's funny that you mentioned the headphones. They've worked for me too. I have a playlist of soundtracks. Once I get in the "flow" I don't even hear them, but as you say, they keep out those other thoughts. (Yours and mine are the same, btw.)

A fellow student

I really liked that last comment about "not feeling like your following the rules". I find it very reassuring. I published three novels (in Hebrew), and they are sort of different from one and other, and now I am trying to develop a drama. Sometimes I do feel like I'm not doing it right, like I'm supposed to have more control over my creativity, and not let it run around and control me. but that is the creative process. I find her words here deeper then they seem.

Georgette T.

What music do you listen to Shonda when you write? I love that idea to help you focus...

Marcus M.

It is great how much of this applies to other areas. As a musician, I feel like I have to make at least one piece of music a day. Usually this happens before I go to sleep. Sometimes it is on my commute to and from work...

Leisa J.

I’ve been practicing journaling daily which is a lot different from writing a script everyday. I’m reminded how important it is to tell a great story and from what person.


The 1-3-5 structure template published by Final Draft is a great method for preventing writer's block. It is great for feature length film. (Doesn't work as well for TV). The program forms scenes into index cards, and has a feature that allows the writer to assign voices to each character, to read the scenes aloud while you write.