I care about twitter. It means a lot to me. I put a concerted effort into entertaining and connecting with the people who choose to follow me. I wrote this to try and explain why.
My personality is a double-edged sword. It exists somewhere between driven and obsessive. When I’m focused in the right direction, I’ve surprised myself with what I can accomplish. But, when I take a wrong turn, that same engine has propelled me deeply off-course. To someone with my disposition, twitter provides an enticing and complicated outlet. It’s an amazing and dangerous place.
Before I can talk about the way twitter is influencing my life now, I have to briefly explain what I was doing before I had an @ handle.
I’ve cared about entertaining people since I was a child. In the seventh grade, I separated from my group of friends so that I could attend an arts school. It was a very easy decision. As close as I was (and remain) with those boys, nothing has ever interested me more than the opportunity to create. I turned 12 during the first year I attended that school.
Music was what got me in the door, but I hated playing in an orchestra, so it wasn’t long before I drifted into the film and radio programs. I met a teacher who convinced me I had talent. He gave me free reign over what I produced, and for the first time in my life I knew what it felt like to run at ideas with full commitment. I was 15.
I spent the next ten years trying to find a place for myself. I played in bands with incredibly gifted musicians, I reviewed albums for the local independent newspaper, I wrote a bizarre musical about Caligula that somehow managed to be performed on a stage despite themes of incest, patricide, and a two-person horse costume.
It’s unfair (but necessary) to boil those ten years down to a few sentences. Any artist who works hard knows that the most difficult part of whatever discipline you choose is the unrecognized effort that goes into failure. The hours you spend working alone, the hours you get no credit for, the hours that don’t count in anybody’s mind but yours. When you commit your life to something as treacherous as art, the only measures of success from the perspective of the people watching you are cash or accolades. When you aren’t receiving either, it’s easy to feel like a failure, even if you’re doing work that you’re proud of.
With the pressure for tangible success building in my heart, I began to write screenplays. By the time I was 25 I had written dozens of drafts for three wildly different feature films – and learned how heartbreaking projects like that can be. It was a lesson in how many people it takes to make a film, how many resources, how much luck is required to achieve something on that scale. For the first time since I was teenager, I felt doubt in my abilities and potential.
And then I found twitter.
It took me a while to understand how to use it. It was a full year before I realized that I could be myself online. Once I had that breakthrough, it changed my entire perspective as a writer.
Even in my most audacious dreams, I’d always thought it would take me decades of producing profitable work for the people in charge of funding things like movies before I would ever get a chance to do anything that resembles the ideas that are important to me. I thought I’d have to play the game for a long time before I earned the right to be heard.
Change didn’t happen all at once, there was no lightning strike, but I slowly began to realize that a new opportunity exists in the world, a chance to bypass the old guard and connect directly with an audience. Instead of writing a script that has to be found by filmmakers, accepted by producers, approved by distributors, and tempting enough to entice investors before a single scene is even shot, writers now have the ability to go directly to the source. An uninterrupted line to the audience member who might have been sitting in that theater watching your idea after it had been passed through the hands of the 200+ people you see listed in the credits.
Because of this, my goals are completely different than they were a few years ago. I feel now the way I did when I was first given the encouragement to run. Twitter provides the gift of opportunity, a true chance to follow my creative instincts without restraint, and to find the people in this world who understand and desire the work that comes from that approach.
More importantly, Twitter gave me peers for the first time in my unsuccessful career. Not only people who understand what it’s like to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable to criticism, to risk ridicule, but people who humble me with their brilliance and determination. It’s inspiring to see your contemporaries do outstanding work, especially if you have the ability to throw away jealousy and use that energy instead for improving your own skills.
Over the last few years, I’ve met people from all over the world who blow my mind. Fellow writers, musicians, visual artists, and every other kind of impressive person you can imagine. I met a man who writes some of the best jokes I’ve ever read hidden on a remote island drawing blood in a hospital, and a new mom from Missouri who comes home from her professional job and is so naturally charming on a microphone that everyone who listens to her falls in love. They are people I never would have crossed paths with in any other way, people who are now my partners and life-long friends, people who I love in truest sense of the word.
In a few months I am going to release my first book. It’s something that would not exist without the encouragement I’ve received during my time on Twitter. Most exciting, it’s the first time in my life that I feel like my writing is a reflection of my voice. I would never have had the guts to write what I wanted to write if I hadn’t found such a unique space.
That is why I tweet so much.
That is why I enjoy tweeting so much.
I take great pleasure in sending a message out on the airwaves and having it find some likeminded friend who is searching through the stations. It’s why I do The Borderline Podcast, and it’s why The Daily Dangle exists. They are spaces built for people to be themselves, and to connect with those who might be looking for them.
Twitter isn’t perfect. There is a huge amount of sadness, scheming, cruelty, pettiness, and jealousy to go along with all the good things. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t received a surprising amount of resentment (and straight-up hatred) from some of the people who use it, but the negative messages are outweighed one-hundred-to-one by the positive ones. When I’m able to focus my attention on those wonderful people who’ve made me feel so valued and understood, it’s exciting to think about what that relationship is going to create.