Networking is not my strength—at least, not in person. I find some of the unwritten rules and typical practices involved in in-person networking mystifying. Yet, developing connections is a very important aspect of building a writing career, especially when you’re writing nonfiction, which requires the expertise of sources external to yourself. You can only rely so much on research that has already been written; eventually you need to do some of the leg-work (or phone-work) yourself to generate the material you need.
In examining this weakness, one thing I’ve found is that I have contact (or have had contact) with more people than I imagined. Keeping these relationships going, however, is something I need to work on.
So, I’ve been making a “project” out of developing and maintaining relationships. It’s too early to know how well this project is going, but I’ve made some new connections that seem to have flourished by way of my honest and open approach. Other attempts using this same approach have been obvious failures. At this point in my project, I’m assuming that those who are not interested in me as I am are not going to make good connections for me, whereas making connections with those who find my approach refreshing or beneficial will provide a much firmer ground to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Of course, one important thing I’ve noted is the importance in having a genuine interest in mutual benefit. This requires recognizing what others might need, knowing what you have to offer, knowing what you might be able to get in return, and communicating effectively. It’s not a quid pro quo kind of thing, either. Sometimes you give more than you get; sometimes you get more than you give. At the best of times, you both feel like you’re getting more than you’re giving. This is not intended to undercut the importance of paying it forward, whether you’re on the giving or the receiving end; but, in business—and writing is a business—building relationships often means building relationships with people who have something to offer that you need and who need something you have to offer. It takes effort to put yourself out there, but the effort is worth it.