If you want to be a writer, you need to engage with the writing community. It makes sense to network if you want to break into a new career, and it also makes sense to find supportive friends to help you through the inevitable rejections and failure. When you are an outsider, though, becoming part of the writing community can seem like an impossible task. Like breaking into the cool crowd in high school. Especially if you’re an introvert.
On Twitter lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people blatantly asking for followers. Many have a single-minded focus on follower numbers. They’ll tweet: Hey #writingcommunity do you have under 1000 followers? Follow me and I’ll follow you back. And so on. I can only assume they think having a large number of followers will help them land an agent or publishing deal.
The trouble is, most of those interactions are empty. The followers aren’t engaged. That’s because it takes time to build connections online. I’ve learnt, over the last few years, the importance of genuine engagement with the community online and in real life. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve made with other writers and the opportunities I’ve discovered as a result of those friendships. But in the beginning, it wasn’t easy.
Here are my tips for engaging with the writing community:
- If you’re an introvert, begin by networking online: The idea of rocking up to a conference and making smalltalk with total strangers fills me with dread. Chatting online is completely different. Once you get over your initial fear, social media is a wonderful tool for introverts. It’s basically a low-stress way to build friendships and professional relationships.
- Plan to build up slowly: When I started on Twitter, the whole platform was confusing. Nothing was in chronological order, the feed moved quickly, and I had no idea how to find my tribe or interact with them when I did. But I could see it was the place where the publishing and writing community tended to mingle. So I decided to follow five interesting people per day, with a focus on my local writing community. At first, only a few followed back, but by being selective, over time I managed to curate an interesting feed and gradually began to get to know some of those fascinating people. If you’re interested, you can find Twitter tips here.
- Engage in more than one way: Make a list of networking opportunities you feel comfortable with and try a few. They might include blogging, joining professional organisations, going to festivals and courses, author signings and talks, even volunteering in a publishing house or for a writers’ festival. Facebook groups can also be a wonderful way to meet like-minded people.
- Find opportunities to meet face to face: Believe it or not, after a while you will seek opportunities to meet your writing-community people in real life. Grab hold of every chance you get, for this is when relationships will solidify and opportunities begin to present themselves.
- Be generous and engaged: The writing community is incredibly supportive. They will come through for you if you are there for them. It seems obvious, but you need to be a good friend, congratulate others for their wins and support them through their disappointments. Read their short stories and books. Post about other people’s work on social media, retweet and promote them.
It’s not rocket science, but building yourself a community is invaluable when you decide to navigate the ups and downs of writing and publishing.
I wouldn’t have made it this far without the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. Including the handful of people who take the time to read and comment on my blog posts. Thank you all for making the hard slog so very worthwhile.