I used to have a friend—a good one—and that friendship ended recently. It’s a rather long, sordid tale about politics and methods and appearances and styles and plans and… well, a lot of things. And mostly, it has to do with how each of those applies to a burgeoning writing career. Put simply, he and I are on different paths. We’re both committed to those paths. And we came to verbal blows as a result of those paths. Truth be told, we’re no longer friends for a lot of reasons. I’m telling you about the loss of a friend because of how strongly I feel about networking. Our difference of opinion on the subject isn’t why we’re no longer friends, but it was at least one nail in the coffin.
Ultimately, as entertainers (and we absolutely are), the only way we’re going to be successful is for people with disposable incomes to know who we are. And the only way we’re going to stay successful is to ensure that they never forget us—in a positive light, I might add. So how do you do that? Well, I can give you an example of how I got invited to participate in this really fantastic group of writers called the Fictorians—a move that was frowned upon by some. It all started with the Superstars writing seminar. If you’re a writer, you should look that one up. While I was there, I made an effort to meet people and talk with them. I asked what they wrote and how their careers were coming along. They returned the query. Friendships were borne, and not long after they asked me to write a post for them. And one thing led to another… and another.
And now, here I am, a virtual unknown writer who is lucky enough to have you reading his words because of that seminar and the simple process of networking.
The same goes for conventions and conferences. Attend them. (Note the imperative.) And while you’re there, meet and greet as many people as you can. Get to know them. Make them more than acquaintances. TALK to them about who they are and what they’re working on. And be a good listener.
I need to caveat this.
We’re writers, which means that many (most?) of us are introverts who really do prefer spending time at home in a quiet room while we chain words together than we do going to cotillions. It’s the nature of the beast. I have three words for you: GET OVER IT. And do so in, like, the next 4 seconds. I know that sounds flippant, but the biggest and best free (or nearly so) thing you can do to advance your career is to go out and introduce yourself to the writing community. Let them get to know you. And in that process, you’ll meet fans, you’ll develop contacts, and you’ll get invited to participate in things that help getting your name out there… or vice versa.
My girlfriend uses the phrase “creative sanga” where peoples of like-minded endeavors get together and are subsequently capable of creating things greater than the sum of their parts… or something like that.
It’s not B.S.
The writing community isn’t that large, and it’s full of really amazing people from all walks of life. Discover who they are. This is what business people call networking. I’ve come to refer to it as making friends, and when it comes right down to it, there’s little of the successes I continue to have in my career that aren’t as a direct result of this process.
And while you’re at it, introduce yourself to me. Friend me upon Facebook or Twitter. Look me up at the next convention I’m at. Give me the opportunity to get to know you. I can think of no better way for us to make our ways through this mortal coil as we pursue our writing careers.
It is a dream I have.
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I am one of those people who waited a long time, and then struggled mightily, to “get over it.” But I did, and I continue to (it’s an ongoing process), and I can attest that the results pay off.
The other thing which you touch on, and which I’ve been surprised by, is that the writing community really *is* small. It’s surprisingly easy to get connected to people who I once considered VIP. The “small world” perspective definitely applies; I haven’t been at this for long, and I’m probably just one or two degrees of separation away from just about everyone of consequence. It’s kind of Twilight-Zone-y.