I've mentioned the power of paying it forward before, but I'd like to discuss what makes someone want to help a person. What do they get out of it? How do they decide who to help and who to walk away from?
In this cutthroat industry, it’s imperative to learn how to attract those who want to help you – a mentor, a producer, an agent. It could be a matter of life and death… for your career.
On Twitter, I’m known as the “Twitter Pimp Angel,” not because I wear a fedora and a bedazzled cape (at least not sober), but because I promote others without ever expecting anything in return.
Most people are taken aback by generosity, which always surprises me.
There’s no question, there are more selfish people in this world than there are selfless, but I’m challenging you to open your mind to the possibilities of giving instead of receiving. It will benefit not only your career, but also your life.
No, I’m not on some LSD, hippy ride and living on a commune. I simply believe in the power of generosity.
The old cliché is true: You get what you give. You can’t keep sticking your hand out, expecting people to help you. You need to earn their help, and with that help comes a great responsibility – expect absolutely nothing in return except for the person you’re helping to continue to pay it forward to another who deserves it.
It’s the cycle of success.
Recently I had a conversation with a professional screenwriter of ten years, Bob DeRosa (Killers, The Air I Breathe, White Collar), about paying it forward. He’s one of those “pimp angels” in my life, so I had to ask why he chooses to give, especially to writers.
“I believe everyone's born with a purpose, a passion they are meant to pursue, a gift they are meant to explore. But the world is packed with fear: our own inner fears, the fears others put upon us, and so many people telling us that whatever we want to do, ‘it can't be done.’ Those fears hurt us all. For those who have pushed through their fears, even just a little bit, it's their responsibility to look back and say, ‘It's possible, you can do it, you can push through whatever's holding you back and be what you're supposed to be.’”
We all have a purpose in life. Sometimes we’re able to achieve it on our own, but sometimes we need someone to reach back, extend a hand, and pull us up. Fear is the one thing that will keep you down. No question. You need to find a way to push past it, stuff it down, bury it, and move forward. Plus, people can smell the stench of it a mile away. That’s whyI gave fear up for Lent a few years ago. It changed my life and my writing.
Replace fear with focus.
I've tried to stay extremely focused on my goals and those of my friends. There’s no question a lot of my time gets sucked up by helping others, but at the end of they day, I guarantee my efforts reward me tenfold.
With approximately 8,000 followers on Twitter, you can imagine how many questions I get. Instead of groaning or ignoring them, I remember how I would have given anything for advice when I first started out, eight years ago. Bob agrees.
“I'll answer just about any question on Twitter. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the business of screenwriting, and I feel the only way to fight that is with truth, spreading the word about the reality of this business in a way that empowers people, instead of crushing them.”
The payoff to giving advice is someone taking your advice… and growing from it. Another generous writer and dear friend of mine is Doug Richardson (Die Hard 2, Bad Boys, Hostage… and now ScriptMag columnist). He loves being a witness to a person morphing from a cocoon into a breathtaking butterfly. It's the writer in him, craving to see the evolution of another person. Having a hand in that transformation is truly a blessing.
The respect and joy of transformation is what drives those “pimp angels.” Isn’t that what writing is all about? Evolving our characters to change? It’s akin to writer’s crack. What better satisfaction than being a part of evolving a real-life person instead of a fictional one.
It all boils down to being a part of a community, where everyone raises the bar for each other. That’s my kind of hangout.
But how do you find one of these pay-it-forward people to help you in your life and career?
You can’t control if someone is a generous soul or not, but you can control how you conduct yourself to make you one of those people worthy of their assistance.
Bob explains, “I find myself drawn to helping writers who are passionate about what they do, who are humble in the face of this daunting challenge, who do their homework, and who are kind and thankful. This is an incredibly difficult business, filled with petty, hurtful people. But the only way to make things better is to lead by example, from the most powerful studio heads all the way to the interns in their first job.”
Is finding a mentor the golden ticket to success?
No one can give you your career. You have to get in there and work for it. Sure, someone can open a door and give you a leg up, but if you don't do the work yourself and earn that opportunity, you wont make it.
I repeat: Earn your opportunity.
When Habitat for Humanity builds a home for someone, those lucky people don’t just get house keys handed to them. They go through a grueling selection process. Even then, they don’t get a handout – they get their hands dirty. They help build their own home, side-by-side with volunteers.
Your career is just like that.
It all boils down to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Pretty damn simple, isn’t it?
Now imagine a world where everyone followed that rule. Better yet, imagine a Hollywood where everyone did. Oh yeah, I hear the snickers, but maybe we can make a better, stronger community, if not industry… one good deed at a time.
How about we start small, with just you.
Before the day is over, I want you to do two things – one for you, and one for someone else:
- Vow to write every single day, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
- Do one good thing for someone and see how it feels.
Really, what’s the worst that can happen? Every day, you’ll have vomit words written on a page, and you might actually feel warm and fuzzy having helped someone.
Now that’s nothing to be afraid of.
I promise, living by that Golden Rule will attract the ones who want and will help you succeed in writing. I know. I’ve not only witnessed it in my network, but I’ve also lived it.
Now I have an urge to give the Vulcan sign and say, “Live long and prosper."
Maybe that can be the new “pimp angel” handshake. Spock must have been a closet writer.
Watch ScriptMag Editor Share Her Advice on Facing Your Writing Fears
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her personal story of facing her fears in order to propel her writing and her career. Click on the image below to watch Jeanne's advice. In just eight minutes, you might have a whole new perspective.