While being a working screenwriter can seem very glamorous at times, the truth is, if you’re not staffed on a show or under an overall deal, you’re constantly scrapping for a clean, quiet, safe place to work. Every writer’s needs are different when it comes to how they like their workspace. Some writers need silence and solitude, some need proximity to good snacks, others can write in the middle of a construction zone if they find wifi to pirate. One way isn’t better than the other, necessarily, but it can make it hard to find good writing spots — especially if you’re in a crowded city like New York or LA. Our staff shares some of their favorite writing spots (and hacks for finding good, cheap places to post up with your laptop) in this month’s blog post.
“ I love to write in coffee shops for three reasons. First, it is great people watching which leads to interesting unique characters for my scripts. Second, coffee shops usually have good air conditioning which is crucial since our house doesn’t have a/c and I’m a schvitzer. Lastly, I have two kids, so at any point of the day, the inmates are running the asylum that is my house and there is little room for getting in a creative headspace. I guess that last one is really just a vote for writing anywhere other than my house.” ~ Aaron Vaccaro
In the right part of New York or LA, if you throw a spitball in a coffeeshop, you’ll hit 8 different writers working on 8 different projects. Coffeeshops and writers go together like peas and carrots, to borrow one of our favorite movie quotes. Some writers have a faithful or lucky “spot” they’ll frequent, others have a rotating list. Our staff shares their favorite spots on both coasts:
“I love writing at Dialog, my favorite coffee shop in LA in West Hollywood. They have the best chai lattes in LA and the food is fantastic (I recommend the brisket or protein bowl!) I've worked on dozens of scripts and two novels. I consider it my lucky place.” ~ Hollie Overton
“There's a coffee shop in the valley called M-Street Coffee [in Sherman Oaks] and they're friendly, coffee is perfecto and it's always chilly cool in the summer heat.” ~ Michael Perri
Our staff also recommends:
Bricks & Scones in Larchmont
LA Mill in Silverlake
Food on Melrose
Coffee Commissary in West Hollywood
Cuties in East Hollywood
Kumquat in Highland Park
Civil Coffee in Highland Park
Proof in Atwater Village
Outpost Cafe in Clinton Hill, BK
“[I like writing at] Burbank Public Library or any Public Library for that matter. It's always hit and miss because of the open door policy --- which means you never know who you'll get there... and it's FREE …” ~ Michael Perri
Libraries are our favorite cheap (free!) writing spot. The AC is always pumping, it’s quiet enough for writers who need quiet, but also tolerant of those who want to wear headphones and jam out while working. Have we mentioned they’re free? And by getting a library card and participating in your local public library system, you’re helping keep free public libraries alive? Like Mike says, since it’s a free space, it will be crowded, full of folks of all sorts — so maybe not the kind of place to leave your computer unattended when you go to the bathroom — but if you need a change of venue to finish that screenplay and find yourself strapped for cash, your local library might be just what the doctor ordered.
CO-WORKING SPACES -
“Writing at The Wing has changed my productivity game, and in an unexpected twist, a member event I attended actually inspired the sample I’m currently writing. But most importantly, working at The Wing has helped me allow myself to relax at the end of the day when I get home — watch TV, read for pleasure, visit with friends. — instead of worrying about whatever I didn’t get done that day in the notebook on my coffee table that keeps glaring at me.” Lorelei Ignas
Co-working spaces are becoming more and more in vogue, especially in LA where there are so many writers in development, working on paid projects that don’t provide office space of their own. If you work from home, a co-working space can be a great solution because you can treat it like a writers room — and hopefully leave your writing stress at your shared desk rather than staring it down all day at home. Places like WeWork are especially popular because they’re open 24hrs a day, have strong wifi, and even stronger complimentary drip coffee. But they tend to lean heavily into toxic productivity culture which is more helpful for some writers’ headspace than others. Other spaces like The Wing and Soho House are more co-working space/social club hybrids, which can create good networking opportunities for members who can make themselves available for their extensive calendars of events. But membership to a co-working space can be expensive. If you are at the point in your career where you’re working with an accountant to write off business expenses, they may be able to help you write off your membership — but we’re well aware that getting to that point means paid writing gigs need to come first.
“Try writing at the Mall -- like public libraries, it’s also free, and you can write at one of many rest spots or food court while people watching…” Michael Perri
This is a great suggestion for a free writing spot with working AC and convenient parking. If you have the self-control to not abandon your outline and go shopping instead, go for it!
“There is this diner in Santa Monica Called Izzy’s it’s 24 hours. I used to go a lot. And will still go if I have to work into the night and I’m tired. There’s no outlets so I usually work till my computer dies.” — Kevin Townsley
Diners and bars can be a night writer’s most powerful secret weapon. If you’re a late night scribe, check out 24hour spots in your neighborhood and try going late at night. Outlets may be a challenge, so this option might work best for those with computers that have hefty batteries, or for folks with a portable external battery/charger. Remember to leave a generous tip! Especially if you’re going to pull the classic screenwriter “order 1 cup of coffee, stay for 4hrs” trick. After all, your server might have a screenplay of their own waiting at home for them.
Also, if you’re in LA, here’s a weird pseudo-secret spot we’re willing to let the cat out of the bag about: Restoration Hardware built a rooftop garden at their West Hollywood location on Melrose with lovely views of the hills and the Pacific Design Center. The City of West Hollywood required RH to open the garden to the public in order to get permission to build it. So if you’re in the area and fancy an outdoor writing sprint, this is a great locals-only spot to post up.
We hope this has given you new ideas for free, cheap, or interesting new places to write! And we highly recommend changing up your writing environment every once in awhile. When you are a very in-demand working writer, you’ll often have to turn around notes — or even entire new ideas or scripts — in conditions that aren’t ideal. Maybe you have a pitch right around the time you’re moving. Or maybe you’re out of town for a funeral and get an email from your reps asking you if you’re done that rewrite yet? because A showrunner’s asking about your script and they’re only reading for writers at your level this weekend. Or maybe you’re on set, sampling the finest craft services has to offer over lunch, when you find out you have to rewrite your favorite scene in the whole episode that’s shooting in 2 hours. This business moves fast and so much money’s changing hands that, sadly, when it’s crunch time, you might not have time or resources to create your ideal writing conditions. So besides getting a change of venue when you’re stuck on a script, writing in different locations is good preparation for the life of a working writer. And as always, we’re here to help with the whole “writing” part in class.