BALLS OF STEEL: Give to Receive

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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.’”

Amen, brother!

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 why I 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?

Hell, no.

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:

  1. Vow to write every single day, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
  2. 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.


11 thoughts on “BALLS OF STEEL: Give to Receive

  1. L.A. Eide

    Great article! I am about to self-publish my self-help book for recovering addicts and alcoholics, “Seven Pillars of Sobriety — Win Your War With Addiction by Understanding the True Enemy”. The foundation of my book is one can conquer any problem/challenge by realizing the evils of and not giving in to one’s EGO. The ego is the voice inside your head telling you who you are and more importantly, LIMITING WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHO YOU CAN BE. My book is inspired by and informed by Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and “Silence Speaks”. The ego limits writers by isolating them from others. The solution is simple: realize we are all One Spiritual Body, separate physical bodies intimately connected by the One Life (some called it God). Paying if forward is another way of refusing to give into the illusion that we’re all separate and therefore have to always try to win at the expense of “others”. There are no “others”. We’re all in this life journey together. Working with others is really connecting with another part of ourselves. Or “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.

  2. Perry Hall

    Dear Jeanne,
    Great article on a super subject with awesome responses.
    Sunday in my friends pool his 10 year old grandson says, “Captain Perry I read your story, My dad can play the part of Gunny.”
    Jeanne, you have always been a light shining in darkness for me and I pass it on.
    Perry Hall

  3. John Shea

    Great article Jeanne and dead on. Helping people out is its own reward. I used to run a website for movie news and reviews. It was eventually abandoned so that I could devote myself to being a filmmaker but when it was running I was able to find several talented young writers and give them an outlet. Years later I see a working screenwriter, a working film critic, a PhD and more. Even if I never see success I’ll be perfectly content having been able to give them a nudge forward when they were starting out.

  4. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

    Zac, I have been a recipient of your generosity many times. There’s no question, meeting you in 2007 changed my life. You definitely practice what you preach. On behalf of all those you have helped, I thank you.

    For those who don’t know Zac, he and I co-founded Scriptchat, along with Jamie Livingston, Kim Garland and Mina Zaher. Our goal has always been to build a community where there’s no competition… just great screenwriting information… and tequila. We chat every Sunday on Twitter at 5pm PDT. And it’s free Join us! Tons of generous writers there.

  5. Zac

    What a great article. I’m one that will always believe in paying it forward as I was lucky enough to break into this business. I dropped out of college, I moved to LA on a whim and one of my very few connections I made once I moved recommended me for an opportunity of a lifetime.

    For the past five years I’ve had a wonderful mentor and I’ve learned more than any film (or business school) could have ever taught me about Hollywood. I’ve grown as both an executive and a writer because of the opportunities given to me, therefore I love to pay it forward. When my schedule permits, I like to read stuff from aspiring writers and give them as much support and guidance as possible. I’ll never be done paying-it-forward during my lifetime.

  6. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

    Carl, maybe your son can be my reader… or may agent 🙂

    Marisa, Brava! One easy way to get the 30 minutes of writing in is to do one #writingsprint on Twitter. My guess is it’ll turn into two… or three. Works for me! Keep me posted!

  7. Marisa Birns

    Wonderful post, Jeanne! Bob DeRosa, and Doug Richardson certainly seem to honor the Golden Rule very well. And, yes, I will do those two things you indicated. Both will make me feel very good.

  8. Carl Purdon

    I’ve watched his writing improve so drastically in the last year. He makes movies with his netbook webcam and learned how to edit multiple files into one without any help. He can rattle on and on about how I should be marketing my novel, and how he will market his. He’s reading my novel and has asked questions about it that make realize he really gets it. When I tell him how amazing he is he just grins at me like I’m silly.

  9. Carl Purdon

    “I believe everyone’s born with a purpose, a passion they are meant to pursue, a gift they are meant to explore.” Yes, absolutely. We may not always know, or understand, that purpose. When I was a small boy I had this notion that my purpose was to write. I wanted immortality through the novels I would crank out. Lately I’ve come to believe that my purpose sits beside me, on the arm of my recliner, writing on his netbook as I write on my laptop. He’s nine, and so talented it’s scary. I asked him last night why he writes. He said, “because you do.”