3 Valuable Lessons From Mindy Kaling’s Memoir
“It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I even knew marijuana and pot were the same thing.” — Mindy Kaling
Beloved comedy-writer Mindy Kaling, if you are unfamiliar, has quite a few accomplishments up her sleeve. She is most known for her work on the sitcom The Office, where she served as a writer, actress, executive producer, and director, but that is not her only feat.
She also created:
- Fox’s The Mindy Project (as well as producing and starring in this series)
- NBC’s Champions
- Netflix’s Never Have I Ever
Not too shabby of a resume. Because Kaling has so much knowledge and experience with writing and producing television shows, and because she is just that generous, she decided to write a memoir in which she details her successes, her downfalls, and the in-betweens.
Here are the three most important takeaways I took away from her memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
#1: Don’t peak in high school
Literally named after a chapter from her book, this first lesson is about using your experience from your high school days and channeling it into your work today. In this chapter, Kaling talks about how she was a rather quiet kid and had a lowkey high school experience, writing on page 31:
“I don’t think I went to a single party with alcohol at it.”
Kaling humorously consoles the reader and reassures them that it’s okay to not have the typical high school experience that is portrayed in the American media: drinking, cutting class, partying.
Kaling tells her reader, assuming they are a teenager themselves, to work hard in high school so that you can have a better adult life. She writes about how she rarely went out with friends, but rather stayed home studying for AP classes. Her parents taught her to have a work ethic, meaning no television on school nights. On rare occasions, such as getting an excellent score on the PSATS, she writes on page 32 that her parents would allow her to “watch Seinfeld [on] (Thursday, a school night).”
The moral of the story is: it’s okay if you didn’t have a glamorous time in high school. Most successful people don’t (Lady Gaga, Eminem, Eva Mendes, to name a few). But take your trauma from high school as an angsty teenager and use it as inspiration for your art.
#2: It’s okay to have creative differences
Later on in her memoir, Kaling writes about her time writing for the renowned television series The Office. As I mentioned earlier, Kaling was not only an actor on this beloved show but also a writer. On one particular day, Kaling had been arguing with another writer, who also happened to be the creator of the show. Their clash of ideas had resulted in her boss telling her on page 114 of the memoir, that if she doesn’t respect his ideas that she should “just go home.”
Kaling was crushed. She had never fought with her boss like that before. In her eyes, she had just been trying to make the show better. She could’ve simply gone home and never come back. It hits pretty close to home when you put out an idea and it isn’t well-received.
It’s almost like a personal attack on the soul.
After the dispute, Kaling went to get her nails done as a way to cool off. But while having a conversation with her manicurist, she realized she can’t just quit because someone disagreed with her. As Kaling so effortlessly writes on page 115:
“I saw the soft hands of a babied comedy writer who had never known a hard day’s work.”
She realized she can’t just give it all up so quickly. Because when would another opportunity as big as writing for a show as popular as The Office come around?
Basically, don’t take it personally if you face creative differences with someone. You 100% have the right to feel upset, but don’t let that opportunity go to waste.
#3: You won’t always be productive
In an essay entitled “How I Write,” believe it or not, Kaling discusses her approach to writing. She talks on page 141 about how she likes to be comfortable while she writes, which to her looks like “sit[ting] in bed…[with] a Notre Dame sweatshirt on my lap.” Because writing is such a vulnerable process, it is only right that one feels at ease while doing so. But that isn’t the main lesson from this essay.
Kaling discusses her productivity, writing on page 143:
“For every eight-hour day of writing, there is only one good productive hour of work being done.”
This can be comforting to many writers. Sometimes I find I want to quit writing for the day because I haven’t written anything that struck a chord with me. But what truly matters is continuing to write so that you don’t break out of that habit of writing consistently every day. To know a successful comedy-writer like Kaling admits herself that not all her time spent writing turns into a groundbreaking piece is inspiring in a way. It makes me feel better about the times I’ve been stuck staring at my computer waiting for brilliant words to arrive onto the page.
One can only hope to have half of the brilliant accomplishes Kaling without a doubt boasts about on her resume. But until we can all achieve her level of success, we better listen to her advice and words of wisdom.