Some for the better, some for the worse…
Watching writers on TV is an inspiration, not only to me but to aspiring writers all over the world.
It gives us a peek into the world in which we might one day find ourselves if everything goes according to plan with our writing.
And nothing makes me smile more than seeing a writer succeed on TV (okay, maybe a few things).
But I love watching and re-watching the different journies of different kinds of writers, from essay writers like Hannah in Girls to novelists like Jane from Jane the Virgin to comedy writing like Ava in Hacks.
Take a look at my picks for the top eight writers on TV and in movies that can teach us a thing or two about writing.
1. Hannah Horvath— Girls
Hannah Horvath is one of my favorite characters to watch on TV, not just because she’s a writer and I love watching stuff about writers. But she’s quirky and interesting. She’s not like any other character I’ve ever watched on TV.
So what can we learn about Hannah from writing?
Well, from watching Hannah’s journey from the first episode where she hilariously reacts to getting cut off from her parents two years after graduating college to the later episodes where she gets published in The New Yorker after her friend, Jessa, starts sleeping with her ex-boyfriend, Adam.
Throughout that journey, she gets a book deal, loses it, has her book tied up in litigation after her publisher unexpectedly dies, writes a piece for Patty Lapone, and gets to do a piece on the Gramercy hotel, among other things.
It’s exhilarating to watch as a writer, to see all the possibilities of where things could take you if you just keep going, and keep working at your craft.
2. Carrie Bradshaw— Sex and the City
While we’re aware Carrie could teach some of us a thing or two about fashion (in her day), we can also learn something from her about writing.
The main thing she can teach us is that you should not expect to live the life Carrie lives as a newspaper columnist (or, blogger in this day and age).
There’s just no way a newspaper columnist — even if they are writing about sex — could afford that many pairs of designer shoes.
While it’s true you could make money blogging, the majority of people that start a blog don’t do much with it, beyond posting a few posts. If you’re going to go for it, you’ve got to be all in.
Another thing Carrie can teach us is that it’s okay to think outside the box. You might’ve heard other writers mention how surprisingly closed-minded she is about sex, despite being a sex columnist. You’d think she’d be a little more open-minded about bi-sexuality in the episode where she goes ice skating and finds out her date is bi-sexual.
3. Jane Villanueva— Jane the Virgin
Jane Villanueva is a Venezuelan-American novelist who goes through tons of ups and downs throughout her publishing journey, including suffering through the death of her husband (who she later writes her novel about).
We go from seeing her trying to finish college and become a teacher to really pursuing her writing dreams, which is admirable.
The show’s magical realism helps bring the story to life and, as a writer, it inspires me to write sometimes when I’m re-watching it.
Even though her father, Rogelio De La Vega, is the one who finagled her publishing deal, Jane gets to realize her dream of being published. And it’s not easy.
One thing we can learn from that is that just because you get a publishing deal doesn’t mean you’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Suzanne Collins.
4. Hank — Californication
There are so many things we can learn from Hank, the most glaring thing being not to be like him…at all.
Hank is a novelist who moves from New York to L.A. in hopes of writing for the big screen in Hollywood.
If Hank is one thing, it’s self-destructive. Let’s put aside for a second, the fact that he completely ruins his family with his incessant lying and cheating and move on to his actual writing career.
Instead of writing scripts as he intended, Hank ends up doing a host of other things, like writing the memoir of a rock and roll legend and working as a college professor (and getting involved with a student pretty much immediately).
He finally gets his shot at writing for the big screen when he’s hired to write a script for a rapper.
But is that what he truly wants to do?
Bottom line: focus on one thing, set goals, and make a plan to reach those goals. Don’t be like Hank.
5. Andrea (Andy) — The Devil Wears Prada
While most of the movie takes place in the world of fashion, let’s not forget that Andy was a writer. That was her dream. To write for the New Yorker.
But her dreams get derailed almost immediately. She thinks if she works for Miranda Priestly
The most important lesson we can learn from Andy is that you should never lose yourself in pursuit of your dreams.
Yes, it was a great opportunity to work for Miranda, but Andy was getting swallowed by the fashion world, changing who she was, and before long, she didn’t even recognize herself.
Thankfully, in the end, she realized this and quit Runway, the fashion magazine she worked for.
6. The Writers — Younger
Okay, while the show doesn’t center around an actual writer, it still takes place mostly at Empirical Publishing House, and the show’s stars, Sutton Foster (Liza Miller) and Hilary Duff (Kelsey Peters) have tons of interactions with actual writers — novelists to be specific.
In one episode of the show, Kelsey and Liza stumble upon a great book by a school teacher that they want to publish. But when they bring the woman in to meet Charles (their boss), Diana Trout (the head of marketing) reveals that the book was plagiarized.
That’s a pretty easy lesson — don’t steal other people’s intellectual property!
In another episode, Kelsey finds a great new writer (and boyfriend) with a long, but really great book. She’s about to get him to sign with her imprint, Millennial, but she accidentally blabs to a magazine about it before she secures the deal. Her writer boyfriend is offered a bunch of other deals, including one by Random House that her imprint can’t match.
This goes to show that sometimes, you’ve gotta keep good news under wraps until you’re actually ready to share it.
7. Maya Wilkes — Girlfriends
Even though only one of the Girlfriends is a writer, Maya Wilkes, there’s still a lot we can learn about writing from her writing journey.
The first thing is that you should never put your dreams on the backburner like Maya did. Instead of writing, she works as a paralegal as her friend, Joan’s, legal assistant.
Many seasons go by and Maya even starts working on her writing until a group of women at her cousin, Ronnie’s salon read her essay and inspire her to turn it into a book.
My advice is this: don’t wait for inspiration to write. Just write.
8. Ava Daniels — Hacks
Hacks has become one of my new favorite shows, but not just because the two main characters, Debroah Vance and Ava Daniels, are comedy writers.
But it’s also because we get to see the whole writing process for a comedy joke writer. While that’s not an aspiration for many writers, it’s still interesting to see the inner workings of a comedy writing team (if you can call it that).
Seeing how Ava fell so far from grace and then slowly starts to rebuild her reputation teaches us that no matter how many times you might’ve gotten knocked down, it’s still possible to dust yourself off and try again.
Even if that means moving to Vegas and living in a casino for a few months.
Do what you gotta do.
What’d you learn from the writers I mentioned above? Put it in the comments.
Want More Stories Like This?
Consider subscribing to get my stories sent directly to your inbox every time I post.
If you enjoyed reading my content, and want unlimited access to my content, consider subscribing to become a paid member. It’s only $5 a month and it helps me continue creating high-quality, valuable content. Use my link and I’ll earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you).