It Matters Who You Know

Writing is not a solitary business.

I landed my first writing internship because of a college professor.

I wasn’t looking for an internship. I wasn’t even sure, at that point, what kind of writing I wanted to do for the rest of my life, if any.

But I applied for the position anyway, and thanks to that professor, my life changed forever.

It wasn’t just that I had the skills or motivation to qualify for the position. I did have those things, and they’re the reasons I actually got the internship. But I never would have heard about it if it weren’t for the instructor who forwarded me the email — because she knew I might be interested, based on our conversations about writing and communications.

My first full-time writing job was recommended to me by a former colleague from that internship. And I have my own references partly to thank for earning that job.

I also used to use Upwork to obtain most of my freelancing clients. You’re more likely to be invited to apply for a job — sometimes exclusively — if you have a dozen five-star ratings from current and previous clients on your page.

I could go on. But you get the idea.

The reason I “launched” my writing career at 19 was because of who I knew. Not solely based on my experience or ability to write good things.

Yes, your experiences matter. You cannot (usually) get a writing job if you can’t prove you have never written anything other people have read.

And obviously, you have to know how to write well.

But there’s a reason I keep repeating the idea that writing is not a solitary business. If you don’t network, in one way or another, you’re not going to make it very far. Those who do network will get the jobs you want, the experience you need, and the recognition your writing deserves.

It matters who you know.

But do you know what? It doesn’t matter quite as much how you get to know them. I’ve never been to a writing conference or convention. I’m not part of a critique group or major writers’ organization. I’m not big on traveling or, if I’m being honest, meeting new people in person.

So I got to know my professors while earning my degrees. I made good use of the NaNoWriMo network while I was a participant. I respond to comments on my blog. I got to know my clients. And my colleagues. I utilized my surroundings, and the people in them, to level up my chances of “making it.”

Don’t think you can just sit around writing in a private notebook and expect a miracle to happen. It usually doesn’t. Most success stories I’ve heard involve some kind of circumstance along the lines of “so-and-so introduced Successful Guy to Other Successful Guy and that’s how they got to where they are today.”

The people you know will play major roles in your success story someday. Never forget that.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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8 thoughts on “It Matters Who You Know

  1. Lovely post! I completely agree – there’s no point in keeping your writing to yourself. I am currently doing my first ever internship, and I got this position through my blog, as that proved that I had potential as a content writer!

    1. Congrats!! This is so great to hear and definitely speaks to the power of going public with your work even when you aren’t totally confident it will pay off.

  2. My problem is that I have a full time job and am quite introverted so going to writing groups etc would fill me with fear. Maybe I need to join more online groups…

    1. Hi Julie, I’m introverted too and find this sort of thing hard. Especially with fitting it in around, like you, a full time job. That said, I am going to a writer’s event in September. Just one day, with opportunities to workshop with authors and mingle with editors. It’s going to push my boundaries, but I’m sure it will be worth it. Maybe you could try a similar event? Are you in the UK? If so I can give you details for this event I’m attending. x

    2. I’m in the same boat. But in all honesty, commenting on blog posts you can relate to in some way can be just as good as going to a convention. Looks like you already made a new connection. ;)

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