Most screenwriters owe their tenacity and determination to the people they surround themselves with. This includes all the industry folks that can either directly or indirectly get your screenplays into the write (sorry, right) hands that can shepherd it into production. Let’s not forget our friends who stand by us as we progress through our screenwriting careers, often with self-doubt, one screenplay at a time.
It took me a long time to realize that I should probably have friends who are also writers. At the beginning of my career, I thought that being a screenwriter meant being alone, keeping your ideas to yourself and drinking a lot of coffee late into the night. I never put two and two together that knowing other writers might just influence, and possibly even help, my own writing. Who knew?
But how to do it? Put out an ad on Craigslist: “Looking for other writers to be my friend”? How sad would that be? How did people just meet other writers organically and naturally?
Little did I know that once I started actually networking, going to screenwriting events or panels and putting into the universe that I too was a writer, the “friends” would come piling in. Once I opened myself up to the possibility of having “pen pals” (get it?), I saw that there are a few different types of writer friends to have:
1) Social Media
These are the people you follow on Instagram and Twitter to keep you inspired but you’ll likely never meet in-person (I’m talking about you, Shonda). That’s okay. They help you feel plugged into the industry as a professional, they inspire you to become a better writer and their workspace is infinitely cooler than yours. While it may feel intimidating or daunting to compare your screenwriting career to theirs, don’t sweat it! They totally understand you because they once experienced the same issues. We need these people to watch to further our own dreams and aspirations and we need to see what the next plateau of our writing journeys could look like. The future’s looking bright.
These are the people (online and offline) you know because they work on that TV show you really wanted to work on that they got on because their uncle knows someone at NBC or (insert network or streamer name). They know you because you were a finalist in that screenwriting competition such as… I dunno, the Creative Screenwriting Unique Voices Screenplay Competition randomly comes to mind, but see you as a threat.
You both have something that the other wants, but you’ll never admit it. EVER. Their success inspires you to work harder, and you, in turn, inspire them in some way or another. You need these people because they force you to never be complacent or quiet about your successes and to continually improve your craft. They remind you that someone else is also in line to get jobs that could be yours. It’s called competition. These people put the “fr” in enemy.
Ah resources. Writers all need them…and they definitely don’t need us, at least not in the traditional sense. These are your friends with tangible yet unrelated careers: cops, doctors, lawyers, nuclear physicists. We call them and exchange pleasantries and then launch into the inevitable, “…so I’m writing a script about a forensic scientist who can read the minds of carriage horses in Central Park…” and the conversation will go from there.
Gather as many resources as you can, but be sure to reward them with a nice bottle of wine (or kombucha) from time to time. More often than not, experts in a field are more than happy to share their professional knowledge and experiences in the name of a film or TV show.
4) The Real Ones
Every screenwriter has produced a piece of work that you’re just…REALLY not sure about. Is it good? Does it make sense? Is it too dark? Is it weird you keep referencing your ex-boyfriend from high school and will anyone notice?! Or even care? So you go to your “Real Ones”; the fellow screenwriters and now friends that are brutally honest and who keep you grounded when you’re flying off like a rogue balloon. They’ll never let you quit.
They keep you accountable, tell you “you’ve done better”, and keep pushing you beyond your limits like a Crossfit coach. You love to hate them at the time, but that circle of trust you have entered into with them is a rare and special thing; you have to be ready to be their TRX coach right back when the time comes. This person is a real one because they want what’s best for you.
5) Spiritual Friends
You need at least one of these people in your life at all times, no exceptions. Especially after your third rejection for the week. This person likely works for a non-profit, has owned Birkenstocks at some point, and is concerned you’re not connected to your chakra. These spiritual beings remind you that this whole crazy thing we’ve all decided to embark on is your “journey” and while you may roll your eyes at them sometimes, they’re right. it is your calling. They tell you to trust the process, trust your instincts and trust your heart all the while encouraging your wanderlust and thirst for new stories with their cool posts from Tulum, Costa Rica and Joshua Tree.
6) Ride or Die Crew
Now, these are the truest cats in the game. They are there for every win, every failure, every celebration, and every heartbreak. And more likely than not… these people are not fellow writers. They keep you balanced and distracted when you receive another rejection letter after you’ve run out of space on your corkboard designated for that purpose.
They’ll take you to a museum, to go rock climbing, or treat you to a beverage who’s name ends in “ccino”. They also remind you to shower, get out of your jammies and eat your vegetables.
They have taken the time to learn and understand what you do as a professional writer and are there for it all. They are the ones you’ll bring to your premiere (alongside your mom) and are your “Special Thanks” section in the credits, even when they likely never gave you notes. You need these people at all times so never lose sight of them, no matter how big-time you get.
From finding all these different friends and compiling how they affect my life in many ways, I’m reminded of the great complicated web we all weave in this industry. I’m also shown how we toe the line between professional and personal relationships and how in writing, those two often overlap.
Friends will always come and go in this crazy path we’ve all chosen instead of that nice, stable job in insurance. Writing is not the safe option, but the most rewarding. Keep the ones that benefit you and who benefit from you; leave the ones who do nothing but take. The people that make up your “Call A Friend” chart should remind you that not everyone in this world is meant to do the same thing or be the same thing to everyone else. You are someone on this list to someone else and therefore hold a position within their web.
You may take a different path in a couple of years, come back to screenwriting, and take a break again… but take stock of the people in your life and appreciate who you have in your web while you flip and flop down this crazy thing we call a screenwriter’s life.