Advice from the Archives: Why Networking Is Important

It is so easy to sit in front of your computer and create stories, isn’t it? For some of you, it might be just as easy to network. You could be the type that thrives in crowds, loves to meet people and gets the word out that you are a brilliant writer with a great story. When you sign up for your pitch, you are eager and ready to recount the most pertinent details of your book.

For others, those of us who are highly introverted, even the word “networking” can bring on the shakes. You might hyperventilate at the idea of a pitch, of telling anyone that you have an amazing story to share. Forget the phobic tendencies. Networking is a necessary skill. In the long run, the more you network, the better you will feel about yourself.

Networking is hard to do because some of us don’t like to brag. It feels cheesy, self-absorbed and inauthentic. Maybe there is some of that, but just bear in mind this little mantra: You’re making friends. You’re creating real, meaningful relationships. Sure, you’re also self-promoting a bit because you’ve constantly got your book in the back of your mind, but if you focus on the experience of networking—and getting the most out of the interactions—you will find it not only a valuable part of the writing process, but a necessary one.

Writers get their ideas and inspiration from a variety of sources. Often, the best stories come from snippets heard on the news or fun facts read somewhere and then exaggerated into full-blown, dramatic and compelling tales. Many authors use their own life experiences as themes, premises or scenes for novels. Often a writer’s book will be largely autobiographical.

Have you ever thought about the fact that you have enough fodder from just a few standout life experiences to make up several books? Now think about this: Imagine if you were to network with other writers for the purpose of getting inspiration. Think about how many more ideas you now have floating around. A throwaway comment that another writer makes—about the craft of writing, about the exotic European vacation she just got back from, about the stale potato salad you’re both forcing down at a writers’ convention—might just spark your next bestseller. You don’t know.

Finding inspiration for your own writing—and, by the same token, giving fellow writers inspiration for their writing—is only one of the many purposes that networking serves. Whether you are devoting your life to writing or it’s just a hobby or weekend activity, you are surely passionate about it, or else you wouldn’t choose to write. Take any other passion or hobby out there, and you’ll find a group for it. To come together and do it, to talk about a lifetime spent pursuing this hobby, to share stories about the rewards and challenges of feeling the call to donate substantial time to this passion. Any activity worth doing is worth sharing!

The same certainly rings true for writers. Can you imagine your life if you were to give up writing? If the answer is no, then you possess a deep-seated need to write. Such an intense passion needs to be shared with others—maybe you’ll meet someone who’s just getting their footing as a writer, who wonders if the submission process and numerous rejections and the actual sitting down and writing is worth it. Maybe you’ll be the voice that saves a new writer from giving up!

Or maybe you’re in that camp yourself, and could use a kick in the pants. You never know what could inspire you to write that amazing scene that’s been rolling around in your brain for months and just needs a gentle tug. All writers need an energy burst, a morale boost, from time to time. The life of a writer is generally a lonely one. It’s largely a life of solitude. Human beings were created as sociable creatures that thrive on enriching interactions and encounters with other people.

With this in mind, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and network. And remember, networking is not One Big Scary Thing. There are many different ways to network. From groups where you actually write and possibly share your work, to writers’ conventions, classes and seminars, to pitching your work, networking for those who love the written word comes in many forms. Find what works for you—a type of event you will actually enjoy and take something away from.

Even if you have to get over a bout of nerves to try networking, that’s a good thing! It will mean you have accomplished something new and challenging, and you’ve put yourself out there as a writer with stories to share. Because if you aren’t going to tell the world what you can add to it with your writing—who’s going to?

Go for it.

–The SYTYCW Team