Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Build Bridges For Your Career

Within leadership training participants are often taught about building resources to draw on when a need arises. One particular idea that I often refer to myself is "Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group." I love this idea and writers, unfortunately, tend to ignore this idea.

I fully understand that writing is a lonely activity. We sit at the computer for countless hours, fingers hopefully clicking away at the keyboard as the story takes shape on that screen before us. We sit late at night, hidden away in our office, or sitting at the dining room table, now clear of the dinner dishes, working alone. I hear, even more of writers that refuse to show anyone the completed manuscript until it is completely finished, and we are talking about everything through editing. We've all seen the same thing over and over again. We even see it in movies. Remember the scene in CAN'T BUY ME LOVE? She has her poetry hidden behind her books in her room and finally shows it to Ronald, but even then, is self conscious.

The problem with this, however, is that we are failing to remember that rule of leadership. Yes, it applies here and yes, the successful writers out there take advantage of it. As a writer, we have to know and use the resources of the group. We have to know what is available to us to help us improve as writers. AND, we have to take advantage of those resources and use each and every one to improve.

Of course, here is the twist. For many writers, there is no group. It is for this reason that writers need to build those bridges between the island they have created for themselves. They have to make connections with those that can be of assistance. Maybe not now, but certainly in the future. Joining constructive (and please note I use that word constructive) writing groups and organizations is the biggest start. Once in these groups, start, not with working for yourself, but with assisting others in their careers. You cannot expect to join a group and suddenly find people climbing over each other just to help you. You have to help them first.

Once those bonds start to build, keep building those bridges. Don't stop building. It is at this point, that I call on all of those published authors out there. Remember that time when you were once a new writer begging for help? Remember how you wished and hoped for that chance to sit down, even if it was for a few minutes, with that published author you loved and pick their brain? It is time to remember that the chairs have been reversed.

I met Brenda Novak at a conferences several years ago and since that time, I have been constantly amazed at a writer that continues to build bridges. Although, at the time I met her, she was well on her way with her writing career, she was still out there, at small conferences, helping new writers, and continuing to lend support to those published authors that needed something every now and then. Where has her bridge building led to? She is continuing to do amazingly well with her writing career but, more importantly, has now moved into the amazing career of being a non-profit organization with her online auction. Who came to her help? All of those people she helped in the past.

The key is, as a writer, we can not simply sit back and focus only on our craft. We have to work on assisting others with their craft. Even as an agent, although making a ton of money is great, I am still focused on wanting to assist others with their writing careers. I go to conferences, not simply to party and get a great trip, but to meet and greet authors. To listen to what they are doing and to lend a hand. Maybe they sign with another agent. Maybe they go on to big writing careers with another agent. But I can still feel good knowing that at one point, they were a new writer, sitting at a conference with me, asking for advice on a contract or proposal, and I helped.

And maybe, some day, I might need their help and they will be there too.

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