Networking Matters for Writers

I see you there, hunched over in your dark cavern of gloom, silently stroking your cat and typing endlessly at a keyboard as you both chain smoke and binge drink — yes, we all know you’re the epitome of Writerliness.  Except, no one really does know it because you never get out of your cave.  It’s time for you to get to networking.

I can feel your eyeroll.  I can.  I know it sounds like business-ese for elaborate ritualistic ass-kissing, but networking can be really beneficial for writers of every genre.  Just like alcoholics get together once in a while to drink together at the bar (or reminisce about how great it was to drink at the bar before they sobered up), crawling out of your dive can do you good.

Networking is Good for Your Health

We’re solitary beasts by nature, I know.  I know this.  Don’t think I don’t — but there’s a certain pressure in the Internet Age to be connected to everyone you’ve ever met.  Even if you manage to somehow resist it, you may be doing yourself a disservice.  A number of studies have been published on isolationism and the effects on human health — and brother, it ain’t pretty.

High stress, depression, anxiety and the physical effects they can cause might start snowballing because you’ve locked yourself down and not made a friend or six.  Oh, yeah, and now there’s evidence that your social connections may influence how well your brain and memory functions over the long run.  So… you know, brains are good and you need yours to continue to be a writer.

Above all else (and most importantly), your ability to find new work can be seriously hampered by being a lone wolf.  If you don’t put yourself out there, meet new people and whatnot, a lot of opportunities will pass you by.  According to Harvard Business School, 65 to 85 percent of jobs are found through networking connections.  I know, right?  It’s crazy.

How to Win at Networking

Better mental health and access to work are great reasons to pop onto social media, where our people reign supreme, and make some new friends.  But, of course, it’s never that easy, is it?  No… no, it’s not.

Social media is like a tank full of piranhas, ready for fresh meat.  I don’t care if you’re logging into Tumblr or LinkedIn, it’s all sort of the same.  There are factions, there are people ready to attack you for absolutely no reason and there are total and complete nutjobs just waiting to screw with your head.  But that’s ok.  That’s life, in a little virtual ecosystem that doesn’t require you put on pants.

So, how do you win at networking when the online world is so confusing?  Here are some tips:

Find your tribe.  I know, it’s trite.  But it’s also the best piece of advice I’ve been given.  The Internet is filled with factions, liberals vs. conservatives, pro-science vs. anti-GMOs, tongue-clucking grammarians vs. fluent text-speakers — the easiest way to get started is to find your people.  Join some groups that represent your interests outside of writing, like speedboats or aquarium keeping or elephant punching — whatever you’re into.

Feel out the water, figure out who your people are in a safe place that won’t fuck up your future work prospects.  Then join a writing group or two of people in your genre.  You’d be shocked how many will be more than happy to introduce you around their own circle of writing friends.  hen before you know it, you’ll have a blooming network of writers to bounce ideas off of and help you find work when the world’s falling apart.

Don’t feed the trolls.  No matter what you do, where you go or how well you do it, you’re going to meet trolls on the Internet.  These people have nothing better to do than to torment and criticize others, often bringing the uninitiated to tears.  You’ll have to grow a thick skin and resist the urge to fight these people — you’ll never win.  They cannot be defeated with words, only silence kills a troll.

What you can’t manage online, you need to ignore.  You can’t change most people’s opinions, as it turns out, so unless they’re asking for your help, leave them be.

Follow the playground rules.  You know, to have a friend, you gotta be a friend, don’t push and never, ever rub dirt in the other kids faces — the basics.  Be yourself, but remember that virtual mediums are hard places to get tone across, so unless someone knows you well those snarky remarks may become hurtful and result in further isolation.  Use emoticons.  Really.  Draw your emotions to spare those of others.  😀

Also, don’t hammer your friends with constant posts to your feed.  Some may only have a few online friends and your 10 posts a day get very overwhelming.  Shoot for four or five, tops, and only if those posts are really awesome.

Share just enough.  There’s such a thing as sharing too much, even in this world where people take pictures of their dinners, talk about how their toddler melted down in Target and ask their friends to help them choose the right underpants before a date.  Start out easy — pretend your Internet connections are your neighbors.  Would you want your neighbor to know that you like to snort blow off your dog’s ass?  I didn’t think so.  Don’t share that.

Networking is what you make it, but if you’re a writer in the 21st century, it’s a necessary evil.  Put yourself out there, meet some new friends, make sure they all know what you do for a living and let them know when you have openings for clients.  Before you know it, magic happens.  You’ll find you have more work than you know what to do with.

Shake that thang your mama gave you.  SHAKE IT, I SAY!