I learned a lot about being a writer in 2014, and over these ten days, I’m sharing some of my tips. Here is Tip #3.
Making friends with writers is important, but not for the reason you might have thought
A very short time ago, I was of the firm mindset that the only way to become a successful writer was to make friends with other writers, and to be lucky enough that they’d be the right ones with all the right contacts, eager to help you even if you were too much of a beginner to do anything for them in return. While I still think surrounding yourself with a network of writers is extremely important, it turns out it’s not at all for the self-interested, self-promotional reasons I once had in mind.
2014 was the first year I truly started thinking of myself as a writer. I’d just done the Fodor’s guidebooks for the second year running, I’d co-written, -edited, and –published Slow Travel Berlin’s 100 Favourite Places by the end of 2013, and I had completed the first draft of what would later become Finding Your Feet in Berlin: A Guide to Making a Home in the Hauptstadt. Suddenly I felt I might have some advice to offer, and that’s when friendships with other writers started getting easier. I realized that I had been holding back, approaching potential friends awkwardly, all in fear that they’d find out what I was really looking for: that I needed help and advice and had none to give. I started asking questions about other people’s projects, and scanning my brain to think of anyone else I knew who might be able to help.
To my surprise, the connections I was able to make with other people who were struggling the exact same way I was—even people who seemed wildly successful on the outside—were more relaxed, more genuine, and much more helpful and supportive than any I had made before. I met a fellow Berlin-based writer who had also worked on the Fodors guidebooks, and she and I became fast friends. I was happily surprised by how much support she was willing to give me and how many contacts she was willing to share without my even asking her. I tried to do the same for her. A married couple who are successful and well-known bloggers became a great sounding board on the full-time freelance writing life, how to find the right outlets for your work, and avoiding certain outlets that make big promises and pay badly, and a general inspiration. My co-editor on the Slow Travel Berlin book also became a source of knowledge and support as we traded ideas, contacts, tips, and pitching horror stories.
Finally, although I may have been skeptical at the beginning, considering the general timewaster Facebook seems to have become, joining several secret groups of writers online was the best decision I could have made towards finding a community in a profession that can be pretty lonely. Much more than giving freely and generously of advice, contacts, and job leads, the people in these groups have given me suggestions on fine-tuning pitches, ideas of where to pitch stories in the first place, support when something annoying or disappointing happens, and inspiration with their own success stories.