I've picked away at the task of networking lately. I fall down a rabbit hole of groups on LinkedIn or I search book lists for similar books. I read reviews and search public profiles and youtube videos to see how people are doing the business of writing. I toss around ideas about redoing the cover, I review other books, I contact folks I think I might connect with. I attempt, again and again, to describe who I am to strangers in the hopes that this will be the right connection to foster good professional development and a network of awesome.
I want a network of awesome. Awesome people, doing work of all shapes and sizes to make the world a better place. Among recent friends I have a woman lawyer who does immigration law and a former race car driver who works to make parenting advice accessible to all. These are mostly mommy or skiing friends though.
I'm looking for the writers and the readers. I find a writing connection because the person writes about marketing or writes about the same topics or lives in my area and I attempt to cultivate a relationship. I usually start off feeling as I imagine many, many young men have over the years, as though I'm outclassed, staring at an attractive woman across the room.
I scratch out a draft of an email. I am blahblah, I did this and that. You should care because we have suchandsuch in common. And I mean these connections as I write them. I feel them. But I also feel like I'm probably going to get an eye roll and she'll turn back to her friend, reject my offer of friendship and I'll try again.
Sometimes I get it just right though. I am who I. I don't try hard to hide anything and the genuine weirdo/mostly nice person that I am comes through. I get a phone call, on an actually phone from someone saying thank you for the book. Sometimes these connections feel divinely inspired and I can hear the fears of the person on the other end of the line wondering how I wrote. I can hear how the other person fears that he or she won't be good enough, even though when I first contacted them, I believed them too good for me. And when I can hear their fears, I am reminded that we are all human, frail and afraid of failing. And yet guaranteed to sometimes do just that.
Most recently, I downloaded a fellow author's book. The author holds many accolades and is well-respected for his work. And I'm SURE he sells a lot of books. But as a reader, as I stared down the page, I was reminded of all that I've learned in recent years about describing a scene.
I was reminded that someone thinks I look good on paper and sometimes other people's work looks so much more accomplished than my own. And yet, at the end of the day, each individual book is judged by a reader, not by what they know about the author or the cover, but by the painstaking detail of showing up, as a writer, to do the work of putting pen to paper and creating in the mind of the reader, a scene. Followed by another scene. Followed by another with dialogue and metaphor and setting and imbued with meaning. And if I make that happen in a reader's mind on any given day, I've won. And if a writer grants that gift to me, I've won again.
Writing is hones that way. You either engage with the page, or you stop. Hope you're finding good reading this January. I know I am.