Manufacturing Miracles: Genuine Networking in the Creative Field

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A few years back, my buddy Josh Jordan let me play co-host on his podcast, Tell Me Another, which featured storytellers across different mediums. It was great; he did all the actual work, and I got to chat with some cool people. We talked to popular fantasy writers, photographers, comic bookers, even a guy known for epic poetry. When it came to finding success in their field, I picked up on a few common key lines. They were all passionate, all had a few false starts. And they all had happy accidents.

“Just happened to bump into a publisher at this convention,” or “We met through a mutual friend, someone I’d collaborated with a few times.” “I self-published this game, and it was exactly the kind of thing they were looking for.” “The opportunity came out of nowhere.”

I’m a writer and a stay-at-home dad. Where I live, it’s hard to say which is more unusual. I write fiction, but freelance copywriting helps me contribute to the coffers. I’m not living high on the hog—yet—but compared to many I’m doing pretty well. I’ve noticed my best opportunities came about much like those of the storytellers on the podcast. 

There might be happy accidents, but what I see are people making their own opportunities. They aren’t hoping for the best. They aren’t waiting to be discovered. They’re putting themselves out there, making connections, going to the party.

I landed my first long-term freelancing job because I’m a party animal. Okay, that’s not even remotely true, but I did attend a casual social gathering on at least one occasion. It came up in conversation that I’m a novelist. Wasn’t me, cross my heart. The host even pulled out a copy of my first book. One guy was starting up a business, mentioned he might need a writer. I somehow handed him a card without spilling anyone’s drink. If you don’t already have a business card, get yourself some. They’re cheaper than bottled water.

After writing my first book between diaper changes, I tracked down the local writing community. The fact a writing community exists in Amarillo, Texas, is enough to make me think there’s an avid surfing subculture in Phoenix. But by uncovering my tribe, I’ve found opportunities. More freelance work is the obvious benefit, but I’ve also grabbed lunch with best-selling authors. I’ve led workshops on self-publishing and found good homes for stories. Most importantly, I’ve made some real friends.

I met my buddy Josh, the one who did all the hard work on the podcast, because we both love board games. It was on Josh’s show that I interviewed Lee Francis, who runs Native Realities Press. When I was looking for talented comic book artists, I emailed Lee for a recommendation. That’s how I met Weshoyot Alvitre. Weshoyot helped illustrate my latest book, Four Color Bleed. That all came about because I used to play board games at lunch. Like a nerd.

Networking doesn’t have to be a bad word. It’s about making genuine connections with people who share your passions. At the very least, you’ll meet incredible folks and find some opportunities. 

So, get out there and find people who share your goals. Attend meetings, join local organizations, spring for a convention. Get some business cards made, and use your social media to actually bond with people. Manufacturing miracles isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But if you keep refining your craft and building relationships, you’ll eventually get where you want to go. And if you’re extremely fortunate, you’ll make some life-long friends along the way.

Ryan McSwain is a freelance writer and novelist living in Amarillo, Texas. His latest book, Four Color Bleed, could use a few more reviews. Keep up with him on Twitter, Instagram, or by visiting ryanmcswain.com.

Angelina Medina