NOTE: this article assumes a small understanding of how these things work to save me (and word space) having to explain them. If you don't understand the social media forms mentioned, take time to find out. They could save YOUR life!
When that bastard with the cigar and the magic dust hadn't come to sprinkle it over my latest creative exercise there were only two things to do. However, I'd already drunk all the Stella Artois in the house so I did the other instead. I turned on the Internet, and what captured my attention weren't cute videos of kittens licking mirrors, hot lesbians licking other hot lesbians or even moronic skateboard surfers crushing their nuts on stepped railings.
What saved my life was a blue bird.
I call him Maurice, but you all know him better as simply Twitter and let me tell you that without his pre-Avatar blueness shining through every day for the last year I would have either: A) Gone stir crazy B) Become a Drunk C) Become a stir crazy Drunk or worse still D) Given up on my dream of being a screenwriter.
Every day I could jump on to Hootsuite (not a novelty sofa but a sort of command and control centre for Twitter streams) and throw the shit with fellow writers. Some were rookies like me, some had a little experience and some were fucking famous.
Lesson #1: Everyone was a rookie at some point. This was apparent almost immediately by the sharing of stories. The similarity to my own circumstance was dazzling: a decision made to go for it, the ridicule of others who don't understand the burning need to write stories. The highs of finishing a draft, the lows of rejection. The mistakes made and the lessons learnt. All of these stories were swopped by new and old alike with no ego, no arrogance. Just a willingness to 'pass it on'.
Lesson #2: Writers seem to be a very generous, open bunch of crazy people. I found the perfect community in #scriptchat. Said bunch of generous, open crazy people all pushing each other to achieve a common goal: a produced script or two. No ego, no competition, no “better not tell them that in case they rip me off” paranoia. I've read peoples scripts, they've read mine and never once have I worried that they might stab me in the back.
And why? Because that's not what Twitter is about. At least not with the folks I met. And I've met a load. My current Follower count is nearing 800, while I follow nearly 200 screenwriters, film producers, studios and various writers guilds. Each one has given me some great advice, and I hope I've given something back too whether it be advice, a friendly 'ear' or just plain entertainment. It's a social site after all. Not just about the work.
But it is this spirit of openness and support that has opened many a door for me. I got my first paid writing assignment thanks to the network of friends all under Maurice's giant wing span. I had help in writing my query letters which got me requests to read my scripts every time I sent one out. I learnt the importance of being WGA registered and now “Deadline” has that little number (#1455873 in case you wondered).
But it has taken time and that is an important lesson to realise as soon as possible. Even before your first Tweet is launched from the nest. You can't – you mustn't – expect to start generating a great network overnight. You have to engage. Be more than just a random voice. The best advice I can give: be yourself. Don't Tweet what you hope people want. Don't self censor. People pick up quickly if you're being fake. If you curse, so fucking what? You're not shooting anyone or selling crack. Welcome to the real world folks. People occasionally swear. It doesn't make them a bad person, it also doesn't mean their work might be tainted. If you're a producer looking for scripts and are put off by vibrant language then obviously my work is not for you. Great! Saved some postage there.
My Twitter birthday was 16 August 2009. I am now 1 in Twitter years, and doing pretty well. I've made some good friends. I found my soulmate through Twitter, a woman who shares my dreams, both creative and personal. I got a paid writing gig. I got Tom Cruise following me (Ok, he also follows another 23'000+ people but it's Tom fucking Cruise!). I have been asked to write two online articles. Only yesterday I got an email from a major film studio asking if my scripts were suitable for low budget independent film. Things are starting to happen for my screenwriting career thanks in no small part to that little blue bird.
I call him Maurice, but I think he might be God.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA SAVED MY LIFE (and other wild claims)
PART TWO: GETTING FACE-BOOKED