Networking and Art

If you’re anything like me, you cringe when you hear that the cocktail party or social gathering is designed to be a ‘networking’ event.  Oh no!  Not one of those, you inwardly groan.

Maybe your next step is to worry whether your business cards (if you have them) are up-to-date, or if your attire is professional enough for the occasion.  You rearrange your hair three times before it looks right.  You sweat like you’re getting ready for an interview.

Your excitement for your own writing projects slides to the bottom of your stomach to dissolve in the painful acid that is forming there.  Fun, right?

Half of the problem we writers have with networking events, is that many of us writers may not consider ourselves good businessmen.  We also forget that our main and best networking is through friendships and relationships, not some random person we met once at a party and exchanged contact information with.

What I’m trying to say is, if you’re looking to get connected with a bunch of people to further your writing career or even to let a greater amount of the populus know that you are a writer, the best thing to do is join a community of people already passionate about what you do.  Get involved in a critique group, enter a local writing contest and tell others about it.  Help another writer prepare their cover letter for a literary journal submission or post an ad as a writing tutor in a local community hang-out room.

One of my best stories about networking is how I met the publisher for my novel, Moonlight and Oranges.  Several years prior, I spoke to a speaker at a writer’s conference who had given an outstanding presentation.  We followed up for a long time via email conversations.  Our mutual respect and friendship grew over time.  He understood that I respected him as a writer and a teacher, and he in turn knew that I took writing very seriously.

Over a year later, this public speaker and writer offered to introduce me to his publisher, because he knew me and knew I was a “good risk” for a publisher to take on.  My work still had to stand on its own two feet when it was examined by the publisher, but it passed the test.

If you’re truly serious about doing this writing stuff, whether you’re working full-time and writing on the side, or whether you have a few hours in your day that you’d like to dedicate to the task, give yourself some kind of schedule.  Talk to your friends about what you’re doing.  Join a writing group that meets regularly just to write or start one.  Check out a book on writing and do some of the exercises in it.  (Check out my recommended reading list, if you want a place to start).  Make some writer friends!

Networking is making friends with people who love what you love.  If you’re nervous and sweating about how you look or how professional your business card is, you’re going to miss the proverbial bus and the people who are around you will not get a true sense for the wonderful, imaginative, and creative person that you are.

When you do find a friend in the business, follow up with them.  Tell them what you love about their own work.  Thank them for how they’ve contributed to the community.  See where the conversation goes.  It may take an initial resolve to overcome shyness, but it’s worth it.

In being friendly and talking to people who are passionate about your passion, you’re actually networking.  And you might even have some fun doing it.

Do you have a great networking story?  Have you had any extremely negative experiences trying to network?  Let’s hear them.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Going to conferences can be a great way to connect with powerful people in the business. It’s not what you know…it’s who you know.

  2. Very true, Mike! I’ve made some of my best contacts at conferences. This seems to be the more “traditional” way that people think of making connections, which I think makes some of us overlook the value of friendships and communitys in our local neighborhoods. What’s been your experience with local networking?

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