Hey, it’s summer, and I’m revising my manuscript, so I’m posting here on Writing Is My Drink next to never. When I have a project that’s overdue, I have a hard time convincing myself to do any other writing projects–even one as minor as a blog post. However, I do find writing tends to beget writing, and it’s better to do a bit of work off the Big Project than lie on the living room floor chanting Why Me? or my other favorite: Will I Ever Finish This Book?
So today I climbed off the floor for a while to answer a question from one of my students about networking, and I do feel marginally more inspired to get back to the Big Project. Yay.
Q. How important is networking to developing a successful writing career?
A. In a recent interview I saw republished in Real Change newspaper, memoirist Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) said that he sees his development as a writer akin to the Buddhist approach to spiritual development: a three-pronged approach that includes sangha (community), dharma (study/reading) and meditation (practice/writing). I really like this idea. Instead of thinking of networking as a business activity you need to do to get ahead, I think it’s really helpful to look at building a writing community as an important aspect of how you nurture yourself as a writer, how you stay inspired and excited. I think when people go out to do big N NETWORKING as a means of getting ahead, they are often disappointed and frustrated as the luck and chance and opportunities that can come from knowing other writers tend to be something that comes with serendipity and is something that can’t be forced. But if you look at building a writing community as something that’s fun and happy, you’ll probably want to do it and will do it in a natural way that is really an extension of who you are. You’ll take classes or workshops or maybe you’ll go to a conference here and there over the years, and here and there you’ll connect with a new writer you really like. It’ll be fun–it’ll be making a friend. Maybe that friend will connect you to a writing group or turn you onto a great book. That group or book will lead you to something else, a new opportunity or possibility. One day one of these people might have a suggestion for you that you follow and that suggestion will turn into an opportunity that opens a first door. You’ll go through that door. You’ll meet more people. If it’s as easy as breathing, you’re doing it right.
But even as easy as breathing, sometimes you’ll feel you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone–going new places, sometimes you’ll feel intimidated and over your head–but still your excitement about meeting people you genuinely like and admire and for where all this is taking you is what will motivate you, rather than the idea that this networking thing is something you HAVE to do in order to succeed. You’re looking for your tribe. You’re looking to support as much as be supported. You’re looking for writers–early writers, many times–you believe in as much as you’re hoping to meet those who’ll believe in you. Your belief in them will inspire you to believe in yourself. It’s a happy thing.