A guest post by Debra Eckerling
Most writers would agree: it’s a lonely profession. If you’re lucky, you get to spend lots of time behind the computer writing articles, prose, books, screenplays, etc. The drawback: you spend lots of time behind the computer.
It’s essential for writers to connect with others for various reasons.
Building a network gets you:
- Leads for representation, submissions, and assignments. I have been writing for years and have only gotten two gigs from blind queries; the rest have been from referrals.
- An audience, which only continues to increase in importance in this digital and social media age.
- A support system for the ups and downs of the journey.
Therefore, you need to actually make an effort to meet, connect, and develop relationships with other writers.
Here’s how to do it:
#1: Find Writers Online
Find and follow writers with whom you can develop relationships. Make a list of your top ten favorite websites for writers. Include personal writers’ blogs, online publications with multiple authors (like Aerogramme), and writers communities (mine is Write On Online).
Then, like the pages on Facebook, and follow on Twitter and Instagram. For multiple-contributor blogs, follow the individual writers, as well. You can pursue them on other social media sites, but these three platforms are the best places to start.
Schedule time a few days each week (my recommendation is three 15-minute increments weekly) to check on these pages and interact with the content. This means commenting on posts, sharing and retweeting, and answering questions via tweet. Remember, when you do this, your comments should be constructive, not promotional.
As time goes by, you will be recognized by these people, and comments will turn into conversations. Conversations can develop into relationships. And with technology as it is, and more people doing live video, there are increasing opportunities to get to know people virtually.
Every now and then, you will meet an online connection at the same live event as you. I’ve had real friendships develop from people I initially met online.
That is why you have to …
#2: Get Out of the House
Make it a priority to go to (at a minimum) one event each month. It’s better if you can do this once a week, but I know you get busy. So, if all you can do is once a month, commit to it and follow through. This can be a workshop, a mixer, a book signing, or something else that interests you.
To find events, see what’s going on at your library and favorite bookstore; search Google, Eventbrite, or Meetup.com with your zip code; and ask your local peers for recommendations. You can also go to non-writing events, such as Chamber of Commerce mixers, local networking groups, and classes to do with a hobby. For instance, if you like to cook, see what’s going on at your favorite food specialty shop. You can also join a book club, community sports team, or even a gym.
For extra credit, attend one conference in your specialty each year. Talk about meeting a lot of people at once! Don’t get overwhelmed, though. Take it one session or networking opportunity at a time. And be sure to give out business cards to everyone you meet so you can connect later.
When the opportunity presents itself, apply to volunteer. This puts you in a position to meet the organizers, speakers, and attendees at a personal level. I also think it makes the experience more enjoyable.
#3: Connect the Dots
At events you generally meet three types of people: acquaintances, peers, and potential friends. Follow-up with everyone within a few days, and make the extra effort for those you really like.
Send a note to all, telling them how good it was to meet them. In some cases, you’ll want to invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Also, check out their blogs and follow all their social media profiles. Add them to your targeted list of favorite writers, and interact with them regularly.
Check in with your new friends every few weeks. Say “Hi,” ask how they are doing, and see how you can support them by sharing resources, connecting them to others, or attending their events. It’s good karma. You may even want to make plans to meet for coffee or lunch to have a more in-depth conversation.
Here’s the thing. Writers feel like they are alone, but that’s not the case. Others want and need support as much as you do. Make developing relationships a priority. The rewards are worth it!
What do you think? How do you develop relationships with other writers? Who are some of your favorite writer friends? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.
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Debra Eckerling is the founder of WriteOnOnline.com, a website and community for writers, and author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog. A Project Catalyst, Debra works with individuals and small businesses to strategize, set goals, and manage their projects.