Few shows took comedy by storm more than The Office. It was a hilarious show that was an American version of The Office from the United Kingdom.
Even years after it aired, it was still the most streamed TV show in 2020.
Considering how popular the show was, how many actors became famous from it, and how many seasons there were, there is a lot of writers can learn from the writers who worked on this show
We’ll be going through the different writers in the show, dive into some of the tips from The Office writers, and talk about what writers can learn from them.
Who Were The Writers for The Office?
If you look at the writing credits for The Office on IMDB, you can see that there are over 50 wring credits for the series.
The Office was also known for having some of their actors be involved in the writing process and also vice versa.
Tips From The Office Writers
Let’s take a look at some of the tips from the writers from The Office and talk about how you can use them to improve your own writing skills.
Writing tips from Greg Daniels
Greg Daniels has had a huge career and is one of the main producers of hit shows such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and King of the Hill. He hasn’t done a lot of interviews, probably because he’s busy writing smash hits, but this was a good nugget from his Vox interview.
In this quote, he had just been asked how he came up with ideas for upload.
I was walking around midtown Manhattan, past all those electronics stores next to Rockefeller Center. They were all advertising CD players, switching to digital from analog. I was trying to think of a comedy sketch, so I was thinking, “What else could you digitize? What other things in life would it be ridiculous to digitize?” And I was like, well, the ultimate would be your own mind — where everybody’s digitizing and living in a hosted computer environment, or something.
The main takeaway from this quote is to draw inspiration from your day-to-day life. Take the time to explore your area and walk around without being nose-deep in your phone and scrolling.
Look at your surroundings, question things, think of new angles for different things you observe.
Most great writing (especially comedy writing) comes from simply observing life and writing about it.
Another writing from Greg:
“The show had such a different feel and I wanted it to have such a sincere feel to it. The enemy of that to me is the factory TV process which Hollywood is often guilty of — and I would definitely say I don’t admire too much — because a lot of times in this factory process, the actors are kept apart from the writers. And they distrust each other. And it leads to a certain type of writing where the writers write actor-proof lines which are very joky. Because they don’t trust the actors to deliver them without a set-up and a punchline in the same speech. To me, what was so wonderful about The Office was that behavior was what was funny.”
If you’re just writing on your own and for your own blog or book, this quote might not apply to you. However, for writers who work on a team or with other people, it’s essential to bring everyone in to the process together.
For example, if you’re working on website copy, not talking to other people on the marketing team is a problem.
Writing tips from Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling first had her rise to stardom through working as a writer, executive producer, director, and most notably, acting as the character Kelly Kapoor in The Office.
Her advice on looking for a mentor:
“If you have the opportunity to observe someone at work, you are getting mentoring out of them even if they are unaware or resistant. Make a list of the people you think would make the greatest mentor and try to get close.”
Lots of writers like to seek out mentors, and you should start with the ones you admire most. Sure, it might be hard to get in touch with someone like John Grisham, but you can sometimes also learn from your favorite writers through the advice they give and the books they write.
Mindy also has a checklist for characters that she follows:
Characters are helpful and kind.
No one is a moron.
Characters are political.
Conflict should never come from a desire to be cruel or mean.
Do not fear nuance. Comedy from avoiding conflict, not instigating it.
Characters don’t have to be maxed out to be funny.
This is a good idea for writers to have a checklist to follow when it comes to their writing. It helps keep you focused and on track.
Writing tips from Michael Schur
Michael Schur was not only a producer and writer for The Office, he also helped bring other great shows to life such as The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Master of None, and more.
Needless to say, he knows what he’s doing when it comes to writing and bringing a story to life.
“The visual metaphor that [Greg Daniels] gave us for the show at large was like a paved over, concrete, boring looking office parking lot with one little flower peeking up through a crack in the pavement.”
The lesson from this is to create a vision for your writing. If you don’t know your ultimate goal or outcome, you are going to make mistakes along the way that might take you off track.
You always want a north star for what you’re creating to bring it to life.
In this interview with Tim Ferris, which is worth a listen for anyone who wants to become a writer, he goes over his entire career and lessons he’s learned. Let’s look at another gem.
“And of the many, many rules of creation or of writing that have been taught to me over the years by a number of very smart people, the best and most trustworthy is writing what’s interesting.”
Now, writing what’s interesting is hard, but that’s the cost of making it as a creative writer. If people aren’t interested in what you’re writing about, you won’t get their attention.
At the same time, that’s what all writing advice can be boiled down to.
Writing tips from BJ Novak
BJ Novak became famous for writing, producing, directing, and acting in The Office as the character Ryan Howard.
“We would start with what we would call a Blue Sky period, which was my favorite part of every year. For two, three, or four weeks sometimes, if we had a long time, every single day in the writers room was just, ‘What if…?’”
While it’s great to have routines and processes for writing, there has to be time where you set aside to just think, daydream, and get creative.
You need to take the time to think about your story, your writing, and start to think outside the box. How could you improve your writing and your focus?
Want to join a ton of other writers that can give you endless writing advice? You want to check out The Den!