Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get in the Game. Join the Party. And Network!

When I started my professional writing career—back in the days when journalists banged out stories on typewriters and made calls only on rotary phones—I was told again and again by older colleagues that if I wanted to “get ahead” I needed to “network,” figure out a way to rub elbows with the powers that be.

“It’s who you know, kid,” they’d say.

But I resisted this advice thoroughly, thinking in my innocent 20-something head that as long as I produced great work and did it on time and without trouble that editors would somehow find me—and pull me, in steps, to the top.

In fact, I considered “networking” something of a dirty word. It sounded phony, too hob-knobby for my tastes.

So I proceeded in my publishing life, quite stubbornly, as a rugged individualist, trying to make it simply on my words and reputation and nothing else, and while I made it to where I wanted to go in the end, albeit slower than most of my peers, I learned that networking is indeed vital for moving up to the next level.

I remember once going to a big Christmas party held by a major magazine (one for which I was working at the time) and seeing this amazing collection of well-known A-list writers and editors mingling, laughing, over gin and tonics and martinis and the like—and I could hear them talking about, of all things, working on stories together.

“You mean they’re actually discussing business here?” I said to myself, chuckling.
I couldn’t believe it.

In that moment, I came to realize that a lot of A-list stories were nailed down that way.

And I eventually came to see networking as something not abhorrent but an integral part of a writer’s toolbox, maybe even more important than his or her talent and determination.

I also came to the conclusion that networking doesn’t have to be artificial at all but just a way to meet new people in my business and develop relationships with people who could help me.

Truth be told, I came to utterly enjoy the process.

But back in those days, you needed to have “an in” to get invited to those big publishing parties and you needed to get dressed to a T and you needed to have decent social skills—all of which has changed in the age of technology.

Now, all you need is a computer and access to the internet.

Because the party is online and happening every day!

Especially on a place such as Facebook, where, if you search hard enough, you can uncover a slew of major players in the world of big-time publishing—top magazine, newspaper, and book editors; respected literary agents; publishers big and small; and A-list writers of every genre.

They’re there—and a mere friend request or brief message away from being a part of your network.

What Myspace is for bands, Facebook is for writers.

Trust me, if you’re a writer, you NEED to be there. And in an unobtrusive way, you need to reach out to these power players that can make a difference for you. Don’t be a wallflower by staying just within the confines of family and old friends.

Get in the game! Network! Build your career!

That, my friends, is the best advice I can give to get you off to a great 2009.
Do what you want with it—and good luck.

Best always and stay positive,


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