I laboured for many solitary years behind my keyboard, writing as much as possible without bothering to check in with the outside world. I don’t mean to suggest I was a complete hermit or anything—far from it—but when it came to my writing career, I didn’t bring any other people into my circle of trust. I just wrote. By myself. Finished one project and moved on to the next one.
At some point, it seems to be that more or less all successful writers just need to go about the difficult task of learning by doing—and the only way to learn how to write better, ultimately, is to just write as much as you can, figuring out on the fly what works for you and what doesn’t. And yes, it’s mostly solitary work.
But there comes a time, after you’ve built up a body of work and grown your skills, when you need to stick your head out of your little hobbit hole. For me, this involved attending seminars and conventions of like-minded writers, and joining local writing and critique groups.
Suddenly, you can find yourself bombarded with advice. Writing by yourself is simple. Navigating your way to success through the convoluted word of professional writing? Much less simple.
The first time I ventured out to a conference, I received what in retrospect was some fantastic advice that I’ve taken to heart. Ready for it? Here goes: as much as possible, hang around with people who have already successfully achieved what you are trying to achieve. And secondarily, if you can’t find any of those, at least spend time with people who are trying to achieve the same things as you.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself, That’s easier said than done. I want to be a New York Times-bestselling novelist, and I don’t know any New York Times-bestselling novelists. How would you even approach one?
The thing is, several years later, I actually do know several New York Times-bestselling novelists. It happens organically as you set out into the world and start networking.
And yes, it’s a daunting proposition.
If you’re a writer who prefers to hibernate and work in solitude, then your instinct may be to put your head down and reinvent the wheel. But there’s no need for that, because the world is already full of people who had similar skills and aspirations and managed to make something of themselves. If you want to get there, you need to find out how other people managed to do it. While another person’s path of success may not be something you can precisely replicate, you will be helped immensely by being aware of it.
By getting into the orbits of like-minded people, you may find that you gain access to the opportunities you need to spring forward in your own career.
If you’ve researched your favourite actors, your favourite novelists, your favourite singers, or your favourite whoevers, you may begin to notice that these people often have seemingly uncanny connections to each other. These aren’t coincidences. Successful people tend to piggyback on each other—not in a parasitic kind of way, but in ways that are mutually beneficial.
That’s why it’s so important to escape that hobbit hole and start connecting with other people who are doing the same things as you. They’ll be able to help you in ways you may not even be able to imagine.
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.