How I Write - Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also a Little Embarrassing - Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)

Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also a Little Embarrassing

How I Write

ILIVE IN a Spanish-style house in an area of Los Angeles near The Grove. The Grove is an outdoor shopping extravaganza with a fountain that shoots jets of water synchronized to Kool & the Gang songs. People love to hate on The Grove, but it’s insanely popular. It’s the mall equivalent of the Kardashian family. So, that’s my neighborhood, and I have a cute little house in it. I really love it.

I bought my house during the famous writers’ strike of 2007. You of course remember the strike because it was over the hot-button and nationally polarizing issue of percentage of Internet residuals accrued from online media in perpetuity. Doesn’t thinking about it now just make your blood boil?! Obviously, no one outside of a small group of professional writers really gets what was going on there, but the point is I had a lot of time to do nothing but not work and hemorrhage my savings. When I wasn’t Norma Rae-ing it up on the picket line, I spent the rest of my time decorating my house to look like something out of Architectural Digest—a kind of Santa Barbara meets artsy old lady vibe. I think I did only an adequate job, but I did manage to avoid some typical L.A.-house pitfalls: I’m proud to say I don’t have a single vintage poster of some old-timey French product, or a statue of Buddha.

But what I’m most proud of is my beautiful office:

I built it and decorated it, and then I promptly never used it. It’s important to me to have a museum-quality office, so when people or potential biographers come over they think that’s where I write.

No, where I really write is here:

As you can see, when I write, I like to look like I’m recovering from tuberculosis. I sit in bed, my laptop resting on a blanket or a Notre Dame sweatshirt on my lap. I got the sweatshirt when I was there doing stand-up in 2006. (Where I bombed, by the way. Those kids hated me and my long, matronly rants against low-rise jeans. I did a three-college comedy tour with my Office costar Craig Robinson, who is hilarious, and a pro at performing at colleges. He plays the piano in his act, incorporating medleys of hit pop songs and then does a rendition of an original song he wrote called “Take Your Panties Off.” I don’t need to tell you that it’s very funny and all the college kids wished he’d partnered up with a different Office cast member.)

The blanket/sweatshirt keeps the laptop from getting too hot and radiating my ovaries, which everyone knows makes your children come out with ADD. I almost always write alone in my house. I never have music on, because I can’t concentrate with Nelly Furtado remixes thumping, and, unfortunately, I have only dance music on my iPod, which is how I got to be such a great dancer.

The main reason I enjoy working on a writing staff is because of the social nature of the job. To put it kindly, I am a very talkative, social person. To put it less kindly, I’m a flibbertigibbet, which is what my frenemy Rainn Wilson calls me. It’s always been incredibly challenging for me to put pen to page, because writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressoids, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos (see every successful writer ever except Judy Blume). I also have a nice office at work, but I use it primarily as a messy closet.

The Internet also makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to focus. One small break to look up exactly how almond milk is made, and four hours later I’m reading about the Donner Party and texting all my friends: DID YOU GUYS KNOW ABOUT THE DONNER PARTY AND HOW MESSED UP THAT WAS? TEXT ME BACK SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT!

My high school newspaper interviewed me a few years ago and wanted a photo of me writing, so I had my coworker Dan Goor take this of me looking polished and writerly at my work desk. It is so fraudulent it makes me laugh.

I’ve found my productive-writing-to-screwing-around ratio to be one to seven. So, for every eight-hour day of writing, there is only one good productive hour of work being done. The other seven hours are preparing for writing: pacing around the house, collapsing cardboard boxes for recycling, reading the DVD extras pamphlet from the BBC Pride & Prejudice, getting snacks lined up for writing, and YouTubing toddlers who learned the “Single Ladies” dance. I know. Isn’t that horrible? So, basically, writing this piece took me the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy it accordingly.