Writing is a solitary activity. You sit at your desk, pen and paper or keyboard at hand, and bleed words onto the page. But as I’ve noted many times in past postings, the big problem that we relatively unknown, often self-published writers face is lack of visibility. Oh, we’d be visible if people could find us, but for many of us, often limited by budgetary constraints, without media contacts, and realizing that social media can only take one so far, the need to network becomes important. If nothing else, perhaps those of us who are struggling for recognition can learn from the struggles, failures, and successes of others. So with all this in mind, not long ago I joined the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society.
The Society is a nonprofit organization offering a variety of services to established and aspiring writers, and to those like me, who aren’t well established but are more than aspiring.
After a period of no participation in Society events – unfortunately I had to miss working, and marketing my books at several events due to schedule conflicts – I decided to attend one of their forums last weekend. The panel was made up of published writers, two or three of whom had also written for TV. The nominal topic was, “Things I Wish a Pro Had Told Me When I First Started Writing”. Actually, none of the panel members specifically addressed this until the Q&A, when they were asked for one thing they wished they’d known when they began writing in the attempt to make a living. The answers weren’t terribly enlightening, unless you’d been living in a dark cave since birth. The most profound answer was in the form of advice to save ten percent of every check received for retirement. Good advice, but not quite why most people were there.
So why were most people there? My observation was that there were three types of people in the audience:
- The totally clueless
- The guys looking to pick up women
- Those actually looking to network and learn something
The totally clueless asked questions of a sort I’ve heard before. Questions like, “I’m writing about (some topic). To whom should I send my manuscript?” Or, “How can I tell whether my dialogue sounds ‘real’?” I wanted to scream in pain.
The guys looking to pick up women were typified by what went on in the row of seats just in front of me. Three guys, all trying to impress one cute young woman. One guy admitted early on that he was unemployed as he thrust a personal “business card” at her, one appeared to be a hopeless nerd with Asperger’s who couldn’t stop talking about his science fiction and fantasy stories as if they were documentaries, and the third just sat next to her and kept grinning, apparently happy enough just to have scored proximity.
As for those of trying to network, it was pretty much a bust. Since most of the audience wasn’t really networking material, and since none of the panelists had anything concrete to offer as, say, in, “Your story sounds interesting – I’d like to read it and maybe help you get to an agent/publisher/studio…”
In the end, I left feeling somewhat disheartened. I won’t give up, though. The Society does offer real opportunities for book signings at book fairs, and I plan to participate when I can. Oh, and on the way out, I found myself on the stairway immediately behind that cute young woman from the row in front of me. As we left the building, she turned to me, smiled, and wished me a nice day. All of which had the effect of reminding me that I’m old enough to be her father…and then some. On the other hand, at least she didn’t offer to help me to my car.