Update 3pm-ish: I’m feeling pretty sick right now, and although about to try to finish off my Kierkegaard 60 in 60 am going to take the day off and regroup tomorrow. My abject apologies. Probably do two tomorrow to make up for it. Great, astonishingly lyrical book, though, Fear and Trembling.
The word â€œnetworkâ€ means â€œa complex, interconnected group or system,â€ but writers often forget the â€œinterconnectedâ€ part in their zeal for self-promotion. If you build a â€œnetworkâ€ that’s all about you, then you donâ€™t really have a network. Instead, you have a way to send people electric telegrams, and you may be perceived over time as white noise, or as always carrying a megaphone.
Thatâ€™s why you often see writers engage in ineffectual communicationsâ€”like emailed requests for some sort of action sent indiscriminately to everyone on their contacts list or yet another Facebook request to attend some arbitrary event. If this is all you ever do, you ignore one of the cardinal rules of new media, and forget a basic human principle. Every contact is about community, about the personal, and the impact of connection often produces all kinds of unexpected collaboration and creativity.
Another way of putting it: If you are on task 24-7 getting your “message” out rather than using your message to form relationships and to meet interesting people, then youâ€™ve got a backwards idea about “networking.” The best networkers, and thus the most effective advocates for their own work, love people and love to communicate with peopleâ€”and love to find talent in other people. I cannot tell you the number of times my query to someone to tell them about one of my books resulted in something remarkable unrelated to my original purpose.
This process of discovery lies at the core of what makes the Internet so wonderful. Being open to it is paramount. If writing is a kind of sustained creativity, then inspired networking is a narrative about sustained, creative relationships. You are both a message holder and a message receiver. You are both a conduit and a destination.
(There’s also a continual re-evaluation at work here, because we all lead such busy lives we can forget the basics and lose sight of what’s important. I know I have, many times.)
Things to Keep in Mind
- Everyone you know is a potential contact. (Now more than ever, because everyone is literally connected in a myriad of ways not possible before.)
- Everyone you know is more than one thing. (Listen to what other people are saying.)
- Every book or other project you create is about more than one thing and thus can be perceived by readers in many different ways. (Find relevant communities and subcultures.)
- Every person you know knows hundreds more, and they know hundreds more as well. (The cliche â€œseven degrees of separation is more like “three degrees of separation”.)
- Everyone has a different comfort level with types of contact. (For example, on Facebook you donâ€™t have to give someone your email address to communicate with them; this makes some people more willing to talk to you.)
- Everyone has a doppelganger. (Go to Google.com and perform a search on the successful writers whose careers or creativity youâ€™d most like to emulate. Take notes and make conclusions based on your research that will help you going forward.)
Simple Human Decency
- Be concise and precise with people you donâ€™t know, especially if using a method of communication like email that strips out nuance.
- Really listen to what the other person is saying and try to understand their perspective. (Visualize their response on a physical level–imagine the context of their job, their surroundings, and in general empathize and give the benefit of the doubt.)
- Do not engage in any behavior that would irritate you if you were on the receiving end; politeness and respect are paramount.
What’re your own thoughts about this subject?