I was a writer quarantined in a cluttered home office, sometimes not stopping to shower. Who wouldn’t love this job?
Peace. Quiet. Creativity. And … loneliness. Alienation. A family confused by my passion for words.
Wait, this doesn’t sound very fulfilling, does it? I was completely marooned in my country home with no writerly support system. I needed to do something drastic.
I needed to tweet.
In the summer of 2009, I joined Twitter, and my life as a writer forever changed. My name is Jeanne, and I’m a tweetaholic.
There I was with a grungy mane, a shiny new Twitter account and no idea what to do. I timidly poked around—until I discovered the network’s #WriteChat, a gaggle of writers sharing ideas. There were people out there! And connecting was easy—to join any discussion, you just add the hashtag (such as #WriteChat) to your tweets and you’re on your way.
Who else could I connect with from my keyboard? I’m a screenwriter, so I searched for others in the field and found Oscar-winner Diablo Cody. Did I dare contact her? What if she blocked me? I decided to take my chances. A fellow writer and I fired off a tweet, and much to our amazement, she sent a quick-witted one back. Wow. I realized you could access anyone—and that an untapped universe of networking (not to mention potential assignments) awaited. If only Katharine Hepburn were alive.
The more I tweeted, the more writers followed me. I developed a niche of tossing Rolo candies, asking writers to tweet pictures of their messy desks and doing virtual shots of tequila. Unprofessional? Perhaps, but I found it was precisely that voice that others seemed to be responding to. I became so good at endorsing and introducing people to one another that one follower dubbed me the "Twitter Pimp Angel." I grabbed my fedora and wore it with pride.
And now that I had fellow tweeters to learn from, I sat back and observed. Everyone had blog links on their profiles. So, I went further down the electronic rabbit hole and started one, too.
I could immediately feel the blog power. I read other writing blogs. I commented. I posted my own stories, but I learned to link to other writers, too. Much to my amazement, hundreds came to read. I was building a platform. And my writing voice was validated.
What’s more, followers became friends. When a childhood friend died, I tweeted my sorrow, and the outpouring of love and support took my breath away. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner reached out and sent prayers. Bestselling author J.T. Ellison read my grieving blog post and, as a salve, mailed me the first three novels in her series.
I was two months in, with hundreds of followers and a new blog, but something was still missing. How could I take my involvement further?
Well, I realized I hadn’t ever seen a screenwriting chat on Twitter. Bingo! Fellow scriptwriters Jamie Livingston, Zac Sanford, Kim Garland, Mina Zaher and I founded #ScriptChat, and its success has been astounding. We began with fewer than 20 writers, and within just three months had attracted hundreds from around the world. We started a blog, posting transcripts and resource information. Our motto was twofold: "It’s not a competition, it’s a community"—a mantra worth bearing in mind on any social network—and "bring your tequila, but leave your ego behind" (which also has many applications). When a Script magazine editor, Joshua Stecker, spotted our group and suggested the magazine sponsor us, we had officially arrived.
But that was really just the beginning. It wasn’t long before I was going to New York to meet with Stecker and my writing partner, Douglas A. Blackmon, to discuss our adaptation of Blackmon’s Pulitzer-winning book, Slavery by Another Name. When we were invited to guest blog on the Script site to chronicle our journey, I was as giddy as a 5-year-old at Christmas.
As time went on, in between tweets I worked on two scripts, a novel and my blog. I practiced discipline—which is key—and gave myself deadlines. I stretched myself like Gumby. One day, while scanning my tweet stream, I saw Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules blog (blog.writersdigest.com/norules) and shared it. Friedman, then the publisher of Writer’s Digest, startled me by tweeting a thank you.
Within a few weeks, she invited me to Cincinnati for the Writer’s Digest 90th anniversary party. I used my last airline mile and jumped on a plane. While I sipped nonvirtual tequila, she asked me to write the article you’re reading right now. If that doesn’t prove Twitter’s potential worth, I don’t know what does.
Still, did all of this really happen to me just because of Twitter? Well, yes and no. The site gave me great access, but it didn’t sprinkle fairy dust on me. I worked hard—often tweeting two hours a day—promoting #ScriptChat, blogging on both the chat site and my own, and reaching out in every way possible, all while promoting others and doing some serious networking. That combination of give and take is absolutely vital. Which is to say that social networking can be laborious. In fact, if you’re looking to reap career benefits as extensively as I have, you need to think of it as part of your job.
Remember: You get out only what you put in, and to get anything out of it at all, you have to put yourself out there.
Once I did, my writer’s quarantine of solitude lifted. Twitter became my new water cooler.
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