As romantic as it may be to envision Emily Dickinson, Harper Lee and other notable hermits secluded away from the world as they wrote their masterpieces, the ease of the internet demands that modern writers — at least those who care to have a career in writing — are also avid patrons of their genre. In an age where a topic can “go viral” and gain mass popularity in a matter of hours, it is not hard to deduce that for many writers, success could depend on a certain amount of exposure.
It is true that readers should not be expected to attend book readings or craft lectures conducted by their favorite authors, and that readers are not indebted to writers for any more than simply reading the book. However, maintaining support for literary endeavors is perhaps something writers owe one another.
For art’s sake:
Reading merely means being exposed to writing apart from your own. It’s not unusual to encounter young writers who are not regular readers. One argument against wide-spread reading for young writers is the possibility that individual aesthetic can be impacted and too closely begin to resemble that of other’s writing. Of course not every author writes for an audience; many write as a means of expression, catharsis or for the pure joy of creation. But when writing for an audience, being well versed is a definite advantage.
If you come across an opportunity to promote a fellow writer, take it! A little positive press can go a long way. Imagine a world where artists celebrate each other! Make the most of having a network of friends who are subject to your recommendations, but be modest and gracious with any announcements for awards or publications of our own. Remember that networking is cyclic, which suggests that reading, responding to, and supporting the efforts of others is as important as promoting your own work. What progresses one, progresses us all.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be daunting for writers who prefer more traditional methods of self-promotion. Now more than ever social media sites like these can open up a world of networking possibilities. Never before has it been easier to share with millions of people in an instant. If you are new to the realm of social networking, try social sites specifically designed to connect writers such as Writers-Network. The key to capitalizing on social networking is exactly that, be social! While tastefully promoting your own work, be sure to share the literary achievements and milestones of others. Not much for the net? Old-fashioned readings are a great way to connect with other writers. That’s right, you can do a fair amount of networking at readings. Literary readings offer an environment crawling with like-minded patrons of the arts. At some point in your writing career you may have wondered who will buy your book. More than likely, the people you meet at readings are amongst the same audience of people who would be reading and potentially purchasing your book. In addition to networking, readings are the perfect places to witness new trends in writing and recitation. Workshops, conferences and other such venues can be great for obtaining constructive feedback and meeting other writers-in-progress. This is not to say that the workshop method is for every writer, but if you are searching for a sounding board audience for your creative work, besides tortured family and friends, a writer’s workshop can offer a mediated space to share and improve.
The moral of the story here is, engage! Resist the urge to turn long hours spent writing into long hours spent wondering who will read your work. Crawl out of that shell! If literary writing is to advance, then writers must come together, inspiring new ways to engage readers, publishes and each other.
Mel Sherrer is a performance poet and teacher living in San Marcos, Texas. She is the Managing Poetry Editor for South 85 Journal.