A little advice for fellow creatives
So when I originally planned out this post and started working on it, it was intended to be a short review of Stage 32, a networking site I use. As I was writing the post though, it quickly became more about the unfortunate need to network with other creatives. I say "unfortunate" because I'm not a very social person, I HATE talking about myself and my work, and I constantly feel stupid and inferior. Apparently that's called Impostor Syndrome? So instead of just focusing on what Stage 32 offers, I'll leave you with my argument for using it in the first place.
Up until recently, I wrote and wrote and wrote, but NEVER showed my work to my peers. There were many reasons for this:
I was afraid of people stealing my ideas.
I'm incredibly shy and didn't love the idea of turning this very solo career into one that needed me to adjust my people skills.
And most of all, I was afraid that if other people read my work, they would discover(and very bluntly tell me)what my inner critic was always telling me. That I was a terrible writer.
So occasionally I'd send off a final draft (not a final draft). It needed eyes other than my own to a small production company or manager. And I'd always receive a pass. Which of course, confirmed what my inner critic had been telling me all along. So I went back to writing and not showing anyone my work. It felt like the safest way to build up my portfolio. Eventually, though, I realized that I needed to hone my writing skills further. I stopped working on all my projects and I did free writing courses. I read article after article. I actually have a binder sitting beside my desk of all the information I collected over the years. I worked hard to become a better writer. And it worked. The problem is, I now believe that a lot of this information could have been gained much quicker if I'd only shown people my work as I “finished” it.
Once I was done studying (I don't know if we're ever really done) I wrote a couple of short scripts and asked someone close to me to read one. But instead of agreeing, they suggested I join a writers' group. Once I got past the initial reaction that they must have thought I was a terrible writer and didn't want to be the one to tell me, I sucked it up and started meeting other writers. And I'm glad it did. Up until then, the only people to see my work were my sisters. And while they are all incredibly creative and talented, they each specialize in different areas. One directs. One writes songs and poems. Another dabbles in movies and television plots. So to get the specific critiques my films needed, I had to meet other film writers. That's when I found Stage 32.
Now they say that once you've done all you can with your script, you should put it away and after a fair amount of time come back to it and see how it looks. If you're still satisfied with it, show it to your peers. They can spot things that you might not be able to; whether it's because you're too close to the project, or because they have knowledge in an area you don't. Since I had always skipped this crucial step, a lot of my older writing had similar problems. And it wasn't until I decided to take a pause and start studying, that I realized that. If I'd been part of a writer's group I could have realized a lot sooner that my scenes, though funny, were just too long. Another pair of eyes could have warned me that while it works for some people, I should just write my ending first instead of writing and writing 'til I hit an ending point. Another reader could have told me that character motivations don't have to be what would motivate everyone under the sun. They just have to make sense to my characters. While I now know all this, I also know I wasted time not knowing it sooner.
So now that you've heard my argument for networking despite how you feel about it, here are my thoughts on Stage 32.
Stage 32 is a learning and networking website for all creatives. There are writers, directors, set designers, composers, and the list goes on. The site also has tons of webinars and blog posts, as well as a job forum. The site offers a lot and can feel a little overwhelming for a beginner, so here are my tips on navigating it.
Meet people. There are some great people on the site who will be polite and interested in your work. But just like in any other area of life, some people are jerks. Read through some of their Lounge Posts to get an idea of whether you'd get along with a specific person. If so, connect. You can friend them right away or start small by commenting on their posts.
Read the blogs. Use the tags to find what interests you and go from there. And watch R.B.'s videos. He gives a lot of information about where the industry is and where it's headed. This is especially useful if, for whatever reason, you're not able to keep up with industry news on your own.
Most things on the site cost money. The webinars have useful info and start at $39. You can pay to pitch your idea to an industry professional for $35. You can also get someone to go over your script and give you notes. I can't remember how much that service costs. There is also the Writers' Room which ranges from $29 to $39 a month. There you'll have a chance to practice your pitch, meet other writers, write live with other writers, have free access to some of the paid webinars, get discounts on their paid services, and submit your scripts to open writing assignments. Though if you cancel your subscription, they take your submission out of the running for the assignment you'd posted for.
I personally don't use any of the paid services yet. You can find a lot of the information they offer elsewhere, for free, though you will have to do some searching. For me, reading several articles/watching several videos per topic wasn't a problem. But if you have the money to spend or if you just don't have time to research, the webinars could be perfect for you.
You can also submit your work to some open assignments through InkTip's free membership if you're not ready to become a member of the Stage32 Writers' Room.
The Pitch Sessions are mostly for feedback on your pitch and to show where you may need to improve it, but occasionally a producer or exec will request the script. I've talked with people who have pitched or gotten notes and it turned out to be a useful experience for them even if they didn't agree with all the feedback they received.
I've used Stage 32 the most for meeting other people. Since being more active on the site, I've joined a writer's group and even met some people to collaborate with. It's been a slow process for me, I go through periods where I'm better at finding time to network than others. But I'm doing it. I'm showing others my work. I've received feedback I didn't agree with and feedback that I was too stubborn to initially agree with. But no one has been nearly as harsh to me as my inner critic ever was. Whatever your reason for not networking is, once you put the effort into it, you'll be glad you did.
The site has several posts with helpful tips about how to network, I'm sure I haven't read them all, but these were the ones I read that were most useful to me.
These two are about networking but not found on Stage 32
Stage 32 is one of the only networking sites for industry professionals that I know about. But there could be several more out there. If so, let me know what they are. I'd love to check them out.