My new office has two walls of windows. I’m able to work with natural light – except last week, of course, when it was raining very hard pretty much all of the time. I’ve read lots about famous writers who demand natural light for their studios but then go on and on about how they can write anywhere and tell stories about interesting places they’ve applied pen to paper. Being the sort of “deeds speak louder than words” analyst that I am, I’ve never given too much credence to the whole “natural light thing.” I’m now starting to understand the allure. Enough that I almost made this post about it instead of the Blackboard.
That would have been a mistake. Today’s “Tool of the Trade” is not natural sunlight. I don’t really use it. Instead, it’s about the best online community for screenwriters out there. Scott Myers’s “The Blackboard” – home of the “Going Into The Story” blog. I know that you aren’t supposed to capitalize ‘the’ in a title, but the blog is often referred to as “GITS” so I’m capping it.
The internet is full of online communities and they can be a great resource when you are trying to learn how to do anything from changing the control panel of your dishwasher to programming an Oberheim synthesizer. You can determine the best way to plant tomatoes or marijuana just by going to the appropriate forum. Most of these places, however, are filled with trolls and for every helpful post, there are a dozen telling you how awful things are today and how the solutions posed by other members are just a waste of time.
The Blackboard isn’t like that. It’s friendly. It’s got a membership of pros and amateurs that treat each other with equal respect. The resources are easy to find and very helpful, the moderators are great, and nobody snipes. Nobody. I spent some time with DoneDealPro but it isn’t the great place it used to be (before I ever got there) and several writers have publically said they no longer participate just because it has become so negative and unhelpful.
Finding a good online community for your particular creative endeavor can be extremely valuable. But you have to be careful or the trolls will crush your spirit. It is so much easier to destroy than to build that many struggling artists bully rather than create. Not so here. Part of it is the membership requirement – you can’t be anonymous. Part of it is the moderation. Mostly, it’s that the people at the board are motivated to write, not stifle writing. Most discussions start with an open question and everyone is encouraged to offer opinion. Or provide assistance.
Like a recent thread where one of the resident pros was stuck on a bakery name for a project he’s working on. The bakery is run by a struggling playwright and he wanted a name with literary pretentions. He got over forty posts with lists of clever bakery names. They were hysterical. You didn’t need published or produced credits to help, just a bit of creativity and a willingness to share. That sort of thing happens all of the time there.
Groups like the Blackboard remind me that writing doesn’t have to be like an ultramarthon – a life completely isolated from everyone else. It’s more like being on a track team where each event is up to the individual, but there’s a whole crew cheering you on.
Oh, and Rected and Alone passed the 4000 hit mark over the weekend. Thank you!