There is a truth that we writers can't ignore: We need to network effectively if we want to be successful. If we fail to network, we're going to be alone. Single. And that's something we can't afford, because writing is not done in a vacuum.
There's a little maxim, or mantra, that I live and work by. The purpose of writing ... get ready for it ... is to communicate.
"No kidding, Sherlock," you say, because this fact seems so obvious, no one should have to say it. Right?
Trust me, you do have to say it. There are some quote-unquote "writers" out there who don't seem to care about their readers, or their fellow writers, for that matter. They tell you what's wrong with your writing, but won't hear a critique of their own. They talk about themselves ad infinitum but won't sit still to listen to a mere two or three sentences about someone else's project. They don't chat with anyone on Twitter; they only share links to their work.
They don't understand that writing is a two-way street.
That's not the attitude of a true writer. The real writers are the ones who listen as well as talk, and who think about audience all the time because they know the secret. Writing is a two-way street. You're not supposed to be alone in the process. And you are never alone in the product, because when all is said and done, whatever you've written has a reader at the end of it. That precious reader brings his or her own thoughts, opinions, ideas, insights, values, questions, experience, and outlook to whatever you've written.
The reader shares in the creation of your work by interpreting it. And thank God for that, because communication doesn't happen if someone isn't reading, listening, and responding.
Can you see how that relates to networking? Networking is also a form of communicating, and it's crucial to us. It brings us readers, yes, and influencers who can help us bring our writing to others. But networking also brings us people who will help us to grow and think, and we can help them grow and think in return.
Give and take.
Now, it's not always easy to create aflow of giving and taking. It takes effort. It takes time, because relationships don't grow on trees; they're made. You have to craft them, like Michelangelo carving marble. It's an art.
It takes thought. Especially if you, like me, are introverted by nature. I genuinely like other people. They fascinate me. But I'm not a natural extrovert, so when I network, I need to set aside time for it and plan how to do it. Sometimes I'm better at it than others. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. But I get back up with one thought in mind: What might be interesting and useful and encouraging to the people I'm communicating with? Because networking is about the other person more than it is about you. A radical notion. But true.
Even if you're more naturally extroverted than I am, building a meaningful network of friends, colleagues, and readers who give and take with you is going to require some thinking on your part, some planning, and some empathy.
It also takes commitment. It takes sitting down and building a meaningful network on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and everywhere else you are connected to others. Not just on the Internet either. This also applies to the times you're there in person with others. You find meaningful connections when your network is made up of people who add to your world and whose world you can add to in return. Give and take.
Networking means being generous and considering others, not just yourself. Remember, you are not single anymore; you're part of a community.
It involves a balancing act. For me, the challenge comes in balancing a day job, freelancing, teaching, a blog, and a novel-in-progress, Facebook, Twitter, writing groups... Oh, and family and friends too, who may need me to be there for their surgery, their divorce, their job frustrations. You know, the normal stuff.
No doubt you have a balancing act of your own that requires just as much thought and skill to manage as mine does. And that's okay. It's important to find the balance as we live our lives, meet our obligations, and build networks that mean something. We can do it as long as we remember, we are not meant to be alone. Not in writing. Not in life.
Life is about others, just as much as it is about ourselves. It's a two-way street, just like writing. And that's how we should approach networking. Or we're just going to be the single, lonely person in the room that no one really wants to talk to.
Your thoughts? Share them below.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.