I know, I know. You hate networking. I know this because I hate networking. It feels so corporate and shallow and sell-out-y. But it’s important for writers nonetheless. And episode 043 of the Write Now podcast is here to help you navigate the turbulent waters of this essential skill.
Today we’re talking about networking. But maybe not the kind of networking you’re used to.
I’m not going to encourage you to go to a corporate event and shake hands with strangers. I’m not going to ask you to start looking at other human beings as things to be used to your own advantage. I’m not going to advise you to stand atop a building and make it rain with your business cars.
What I’m talking about today is different and better. And way less scary for us introverts.
Bestselling author Jeff Goins has a really great article called “The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Really Succeed” that got me thinking about networking in a whole new way.
In this article, Jeff Goins notes that often, when we say a writer succeeded due to “luck”, what we don’t know about is all of the networking and relationship-building that happened behind the scenes.
Networking and success.
I’m totally taking this story from Jeff Goins’ article, which you should totally read. But he notes that even though Hemingway was a great writer when he first started out, he was a great writer that no one was reading — because he didn’t know anyone.
Then he moved to Paris, where the living was cheaper, an fell in with a community of artists (including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce) that eventually made his career.
“Without a network, creative work does not endure.”
However, please do not feel like you need to move to Paris to find success as a writer. That’s not my point.
My point is that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the influence of several key people in my life.
So… Is it all about who you know? Kind of. But before you let that depress you, please remember that you can get to know a lot of different people in a lot of different ways using THE MAGIC OF THE INTERNET!
Pointers for networking on social media, within blog comments, etc:
Stay focused on individuals. While it may feel like everyone is just shouting past each other via digital megaphone, in reality, we’re all just people. Remember, there’s a human being on the other end of every social media account. Treat digital interactions like face-to-face personal interactions, focus on building a relationship, and you’ll be fine.
Be human. Do not nag, troll, or hassle other writers. Reach out and make contact, and if they don’t respond, please do understand that they’re probably incredibly busy. If they do respond, don’t stalk them or latch on parasite-style. Be gracious and give them space while you build a relationship.
Join a community! This can be on Medium, a Facebook group, a Google+ community, a subreddit, Quora, a gaggle of like-minded NaNoWriMo forum commenters… there are online communities everywhere. And they can confer great benefits, like mentorship, growth in skills and talents, and (you guessed it) networking and connecting with others who can have a positive influence on your life.
You don’t have to do it all. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way (with this podcast, in fact). You don’t have to be on every single social media platform ever invented. Pick one, two, or three and find solid footing there before you branch out to other platforms.
Interact! This is not an “If you build it, they will come” scenario. You can’t just sit back and wait for praise and adoration to flow in. You nee to build the groundwork. Reply to posts. Respond to others’ tweets. Ask questions. Listen to answers. Challenge opinions. This is great practice for developing and using your voice.
Be positive and uplifting — don’t tear others down. While being negative might get you the amount of attention you’re looking for, it’s not the kind of attention you want. (Think about how everyone looks at the 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store.)
Give, don’t take. If you’re going into networking looking to use people or take something from people, you’re doing it all wrong. You’re there to give — your time, your talent, your expertise. Often the greatest gift we can give someone is the (rare) gift of listening.
Be patient. Just like building relationships in person, building relationships online takes time. You’re not going to set up your Twitter profile and wake up the next morning to find a thousand followers. You will more likely have two. Or three. But that’s OK. We all start somewhere.
Jeff Goins’ three keys to networking:
- Help people. Set your motives for “selfless”.
- Give something away — do favors for people.
- Know how to ask for help at the right time.
In person? Coffee.
Sure, you can attend a conference or join a professional association or local writers’ group. (Trust me on this one.)
But the most powerful in-person networking tactic is to get coffee one-on-one. There is magic in coffee (and I’m not just talking about the caffeine).
Something happens when you commit to connecting with someone one-on-one in a small (public) place, when you can set aside screens and make eye contact or shake their hand. There’s something really rare that happens when you put yourself out there as willing to listen to someone else’s story — and you actually listen to it.
So ask someone influential if you can buy them a cup of coffee. It can be a favorite college professor, a local news anchor, bookstore owner, head of marketing at so-and-so company. Tell them you admire the way they accomplished X or completed Y, and say that you’d love to hear their story. And if they agree, be respectful of their time, be willing to truly listen, and (above all) be yourself.
So what is networking good for? Ultimately, it’s how we build trust. It’s how we form credible relationships. It’s how we can show that we care. When you go in to networking with a servant’s heart and not with the intention of using people to climb some sort of social ladder, you’ll be positioning yourself for success as a writer.
What about you?
Do you agree? Are there any ideas left? Or are we simply creating reiterations of old ideas? Let me know your thoughts via my contact page, leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com! 🙂