Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Networking is Key

The Importance of Networking

In January 2006, I left South Africa and moved to New Zealand along with my husband and five children. We only knew three people in our new country and they were more acquaintances than friends. We had to start from scratch and build a new network of friends and support systems. We had to find a new doctor, dentist, hairdresser and bank. We had to learn where to shop and the children had to start at new schools and universities. We had to prove ourselves and build a reputation amongst the people we were mixing with.

Within a few months we had achieved all of the above and the locals were amazed at how quickly we had established ourselves. I put our success down to two things:

· Perseverance, hard work and a positive attitude
· Being part of the church – a group of people who shared our values and beliefs

You may be wondering what this has to do with a writing column.

Freelance writers tend to become isolated as they work alone, often from home. I have found it essential to surround myself with people who share my passion for writing and are just a phone call or email away. It may be for companionship or I may need some advice or want to bounce an idea off them. Whatever the reason, my support system is very important to me.

Building a Network
I have a network of writing contacts that spreads across New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and the USA. Included are publishers, published authors, editors, journalists and raw beginners. I made contact with these people through a variety of means:
· Emailing an author because I enjoyed her book
· Entering competitions and staying in touch with the judges/organizers
· Joining message boards and forums where writers gather
· Attending writer’s conferences and workshops
· Joining local writing groups

Relationship First
It’s important to regard each contact as a friend first. Drop them an occasional email asking them how they are doing. Find out when their birthday is and send them a card. Give them a call when you know they’ve been struggling and are feeling a bit down.

Help Each Other
It’s always good to let another set of eyes check your work. We can get so close to it that we miss the simplest errors. I wrote a short story about eight years ago that placed first in a fiction contest. The judge attached a critique and told me that although she loved the story, I needed to check my work more carefully in the future. My mistake was simple; a fence in the beginning of the story had morphed into a wall by the end!

Never underestimate the influence that you have over other people. The simplest things you do can affect others. I often write for our local newspaper – on random subjects such as Zimbabwe, the facilities in our city, my dog, living with a foreign accent etc. None of it is Christian and I used to wonder if I was wasting my time. Wouldn’t God prefer me to concentrate on Christian writing? Then I got an invitation to speak at a club for retired women. The president had seen my work in the paper and thought I would make an interesting speaker. I started by thanking her for the invitation and said she had taken a chance as I was just a name in the paper. I then shared snippets of my life story including my faith in God and how He had been with me as I lived through the bush war in Rhodesia and the violence in South Africa.

She came to me afterwards and told me she hadn’t taken a chance on me. That she had discerned my character through the way I wrote. That speaking engagement led on to others where I could share my testimony and I have never forgotten what she said. God can use our words in more ways than we give Him credit for.

Make it your mission this week to drop a line to your friends in the writing world. Tell them you appreciate them and that you’re there for them if they ever need advice or an extra set of eyes. Then take some of the words that God has given you and send them out to bear some fruit. (And let us know if you have a testimony you’d like to share about networking with other writers.)

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Current projects include a contract for writing devotionals, contributions to the local paper, editing and production of a community newsletter and compilation of her church’s year book. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.


Tracy Ruckman said...

This is excellent advice.

Guess I'll have to give up hermit-status a few days!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi -

I found your blog via a link at Jessica's Bookingit.

This post resonated with me. Five years ago, I married, moved to another state, and started a new life. With a strong writing community in this area and church friends, my transition took less time than I'd anticipated.

I've bookmarked this blog and look forward to visiting again.

Susan J. Reinhardt :)