e've all seen references to networking over the years; it's become one of the business world's most enduring buzzwords, and it's one that has never lost its potency. Nowadays, it's even flowed over into social interaction, with "social networking" websites and lists - Facebook, MySpace, CraigsList, Frapper and more - proliferating all over the place as ways for people to meet and exchange ideas and resources. Most of us know we need to network, and that we can use networking not only to find a new job or freelance project, but to find a reliable contractor, good doctor or the perfect babysitter. Here are a few thoughts on how to network for inspiration in your writing work.
How it works:
Networking involves sharing resources and information, but the first step is finding people with whom to network. Once you've done that, you can worry about what to ask for and what to give back in response.
If you're a writer, whether already published or still aspiring to see your name in print for the first time, you can draw inspiration from everyone and everything in your life, but other writers are likely to be most helpful in positioning yourself to write something worthy of publication.
Where to find 'em? Start with the local Yellow Pages to see if your town has a writer's center of some sort. If nothing pops up there, make a few calls to local libraries, colleges and bookstores, many of which sponsor writers' groups; even the local high school might have a continuing education program for writers.
Check to see if there's a local chapter of the National Writers Union,Editorial Freelancers Association, Association for Women in Communications, Society for Technical Communication, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators or other national organization for writers - you can find dozens of such organizations with a quick search of the Internet (one useful source is http://www.readersread.com/organizations.htm).
From gardening to education, to horror, mystery, business, to romance, politics, religion, women's issues, medicine and more - whatever you want to write about, there's probably an association for writers in that area of interest. If there isn't one in your area of interest, there's likely to be a chapter of a general one near you.
If all else fails, be the one to start a local writers' group! Local libraries, bookstores (including the major chains) and coffeehouses are usually willing to provide free meeting space, and announcing such a group takes only time - just post flyers and send a brief announcement to your local newspapers. You might be surprised at the number of other writers at hand who share your passion about writing, and are willing to share their experiences and resources.
And, if for some reason, you're in an area where there are no other writers, or none interested in meeting colleagues and inspiring each other to write better and get published more, turn to the Internet again. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of discussion lists for aspiring and published writers, full of people willing to share advice, tips, resources and even warnings. You aren't alone, no matter where you may live or where your writing efforts stand at the moment.
"...networking is a reciprocal process:
It isn't all take and no give."
Why do writers need to network for inspiration, either once in awhile or on a regular basis? Well, every writer hits the wall of writer's block at least once in a career, whether as a professional or an amateur, and no one else understands how that feels except other writers. Those who want to be published often need advice on how to achieve that goal - not just how to write better, but how to find agents or publishers, get visibility for their work, get going on the next opus, etc. - and inspiration on innovative ways to handle all those aspects of the writing life. Even well-published writers can often use some encouragement or inspiration to move through a new work.
How do writers inspire each other once we find each other? Well, for one thing, we share our triumphs (ideally without bragging too much, but everyone needs an opportunity to show off on occasion). We also share our down times and problems. Hearing how other writers cope with isolation, writer's block, finding publishing outlets, getting paid, recharging our imaginations and more is nothing short of inspiring! Just knowing that a colleague succeeded in getting published in a given publication might inspire you to try submitting your work to that publication, or one like it. Knowing that other writers have had similar struggles with just getting the work written, and then with getting it published, can inspire you to persevere.
"...networking with other writers is
likely to yield the inspiration
you need to move onward
with the work."
Writers who have been covering the same topic again and again often need the inspiration of networking with colleagues to recharge their mental batteries and reinvigorate their imaginations. Exchanging experiences and sharing tips and resources can be vital to inspiring each other to be more creative and approach familiar topics from new angles.
There's also the critiquing factor. One way to network is to share a work in progress with colleagues for their opinions. That can be a huge help to a writer who is struggling with getting an idea across, making smooth transitions and/or charting workable plotlines. If something in your writing process is holding you back, networking with other writers is likely to yield the inspiration you need to move onward with the work. Colleagues should have insights and experiences to share that are different from your own, and those new perspectives may inspire you to new heights.
Give and take
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that networking is a reciprocal process: It isn't all take and no give. It goes two ways, not only one way and only toward you. If you want to network effectively and successfully, you have to find ways to give something back to the people who help you out. You might not have the same resources as your colleagues, but you surely have something with which you can return the favor if someone in your social or professional network helps you find that inspiring focus for your work. Even if it's just a warm "thank you" or a token gift to show your appreciation, always respond to a networking opportunity with something worth sharing.
Keep a file of new books, interesting articles and websites, and other resources you encounter that your colleagues may find useful. Alert colleagues to events and meetings they might want to attend. Be the one to organize the occasional jaunt, reading or other writing-related activity with colleagues.
All of this is networking, and all of it can inspire you - and your networking circle - in creating a successful writing life.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter was born and raised in Rochester, NY. In 1978-'79, she was a Ford Fellow in the University of Missouri-Columbia's graduate program in journalism. She wrapped up her BA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2000, at age 47.
Thaler-Carter started writing for pay while still in high school and freelanced from 1974-'85 while holding various fulltime communications positions. She became a fulltime freelance writer and editor in 1985. She has won awards for her writing and editing from APEX, Editor's Forum and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), as well as the Philip M. Stern Award for outstanding service to other freelancers from Washington Independent Writers and Communicator of the Year for her contributions to IABC/DC.
2500 East Avenue, Suite 7K, Rochester, NY 14610