What’s the most terrifying word for authors?

by Gina Burgess

Nope it isn’t writer’s block. That’s two words. According to a mountain of studies it’s networking. Of course there isn’t a separate study done just on authors, but studies have included thousands of people in all different walks of life. Networking seems to either instill excitement of discovery in some people or fear of inauthenticity  in others.

Which works better?
a) A fork to beat egg whites or b) a mixer/blender?
a) A single strand cord or b) a 3-stranded rope?
a) One person working alone, or b) several people working as a team?

Generally, it’ll be B every time. Certainly, more is not better all the time, but Tom Sawyer figured out that a lot of people painting a fence would get the job done a lot quicker. Right?

Here comes that terrifying word: Networking. Harvard Business Review has and interesting article about networking. In fact,

“… research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority.”

So why is it so disliked?

Tom and I were talking the other day about how people are naturally helpful for the most part. You ask someone to help you, and as long as it isn’t illegal or too complicated, they will happily help. This is that natural social focus we humans have instilled. A stranger asking for information naturally results in information given to him or her. How much more will a friend and colleague exert an effort to help when asked for it?

So, focus on learning when networking if you are having trouble with it. Psychologist have an axiom that people are either focused on prevention or on promotion. Prevention focus is viewing a thing that has to be done with fear or dislike while knowing it is necessary to get the job done, while promotion focus is viewing a thing as discovery, learning, exciting. Ask for information/knowledge. You will discover new insights that will help you write better.

Common interests will build strong bridges. I learned in my social psychology classes and communication classes that people flock together because of their built in social tendencies, but those who have common interests will build strong relationships that go deep and last a long time. The authors you bond with are lovers of words just like you! They struggle with turns of phrases just like you. Having a person to share a problem with dispels loneliness and ignorance.

Give as much or more than you expect to get. It’s that sense of justice that God gave us that makes us want to keep the scales balanced. No one likes a person who takes all the time without giving something back. We expect give and take in our relationships, and especially in our work-related relationships. Finding a person with the same interests as you that is willing to share knowledge and contacts is like finding the mother lode in a gold mine. There’s nothing more valuable in marketing. Sharing your knowledge with that other person keeps the scales balanced, and makes the relationship very authentic, which makes networking worthwhile.

Be exclusive. Put your time and effort into just a few rather than using a scattergun method. Narrow the common interest basket contents to your genre. That’s why there are specific categories in the Author Community Forum where you can get to know other authors interested in what interests you. Take advantage of it. Share your back cover blurbs or your book descriptions and ask for honest critiques. Once you’ve made friends, then do the give and take of networking.

Attend those writers’ conferences, book fairs, and workshops. Writing is a lonely business because you do it by yourself. That doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of opportunities to reach out and get to know others that have your same interests, problems, fears, joys, and even triumphs. It’s truly a joy when you can share with others and they rejoice with you or weep with you. I know, lots of people say that friends online are just not the same as friends in face-to-face relationships. I’ve been online since 1996, and I can tell you that friends you make online can be just as wonderful as those in face-to-face, and on occasion, better. I have one friend I’ve known online, never met face-to-face since 1997. I have other friends that I’ve lost touch with (not even Christmas cards), that depended on the fact-to-face and dissipated when I moved. Online friends may not be able to bring you soup when you are sick, but they can definitely commiserate with you, love you, help you, introduce you to other contacts that will further your career. Never let this distance thing interfere with building solid relationships. Those relationships may be strong bridges between problems and solutions right now or in your future.

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