I remember my first class in creative writing when Merlinda Bobis said that, "Writing is a solitary art, but you don't need to be lonely". We may create on our own, but when our work is written, what do we do with it? How do we find people to read it, workshop it, publish it?
If we shut ourselves off from the rest of the writing world, we limit our chances of becoming better writers. And the best way to immerse yourself in the writing world is to start networking. Networking has always been an important part of writing, whether it’s just being part of a group and having your work read by others or using social media as a marketing strategy.
Networking means getting to know people just like you, sharing knowledge and experience, and helping each other out. It has a ‘you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours’ kind of feel, and by spreading the writerly-love, you’re sure to get some in return.
Networking Doesn't Come Naturally
I think it's safe to say that most writers are introverts. We enjoy secluding ourselves in our rooms and typing away for hours, or snuggling up at home with a good book. But mention leaving the house to attend a writing event or getting up the courage to leave an opinionated comment on a blog and a lot of us retreat.
Networking doesn't have to be all about awkward social moments and tentative hovering over the 'post comment' button. The important thing to remember is that you're engaging with other writers. And those writers are introverts too.
But with the rise of social media, the introverts of the world are given the power to take back networking.
I recently got a comment on my blog that said, "Do it gurrl! The Internet supports you", and I believe that there is so much truth in this for all of us. Writers on social media become one big happy family, always ready to lend an ear and give a pat on the back. Despite the distance between us, we're actually much closer than ever before, and when you realise that, suddenly networking doesn't seem so scary anymore.
In our interview with Merlinda, she stressed the importance of putting yourself out there as a means to help your voice be heard, even though it may be immensely daunting.
...if you just sit on your bum and think, ‘No, it’s a great book, let it do its own thing’ and you say no to all these other things that the industry requires you to do, then you’re probably not helping the original stories.
So help your stories, and start networking.
The Traditional Way
Look for writing groups, courses, readings, and events in your local area (check newspapers, online searches, and writer’s centres) and head on down to be part of the action. Strike up conversations with people, read your own work, and make a name for yourself. Starting small can be a great way to build confidence and create a close network of friends.
This kind of socialising is important not only to learn more and gain writing knowledge, but to familiarise ourselves with the self-promotional aspects of the writing industry (a harsh but true reality).
If you’ve managed to land yourself at a high profile event with a few big names, it can be tempting to burst into TMI territory and gush with admiration, or clam up and turn anti-social. This can be awkward, and the best advice I’ve heard when confronting writing heroes is to play it cool and talk to them about everyday things. Well-known writers are people too, and chances are they don’t want to be bombarded with business cards and ramblings about your first novel. Get to know them, be genuine, and they might just remember you down the track.
The Modern Way
Social media is the easiest and most effective way to get in touch with writers from all over the world. The internet provides us with enough distance and comfort to be bold without being clumsy, and is a great tool that every writer should be using to their advantage.
Through blogging, you can establish your platform and have discussions with others without even leaving the house. Twitter is another easy-to-use site that allows you to spread messages and keep in contact with writers (even famous ones) that you might not otherwise have a chance to meet.
Whatever way you socialise through the internet, make sure that you keep good social karma by visiting other people’s pages, commenting and liking their posts, and joining in the conversation. These things will help you to get your name out on the web, and promote traffic back to your websites.
It’s important to remember that social media is just that: social. Keep your posts casual, and encourage discussions wherever you can by posing questions, giving your opinion, or writing something noteworthy. Shameless 'Buy My Book Now!' promotions and boring posts won’t get you far, so strike up a conversation (just like the good old days) and reach out to others.