Surround yourself with writers (and readers)

So many writers struggle to stay motivated to write, to navigate the publishing process, and find an effective way to market and share their writing. Today I want to talk about a compelling solution to these challenges:

Surround yourself with writers. Oh, and readers too.

I’ll explore how you can do this, even if you work long hours at a day job, even if you don’t know of a single other writer living within 100 miles of your home. Even if no one you know seems to read many books, and certainly not in the genre or topic you write about.

What is the value of doing this? I think it’s huge:

  1. You will be more likely to establish — and keep — a solid writing habit. Writing will become infused in your life.
  2. You will learn how to share your work in a meaningful and effective manner.
  3. You will encourage word-of-mouth marketing with people who truly care about what you write.

Let’s dig in…

Surround Yourself With Creators

The other day, I was listening to a successful producer and musician explore the question of whether other musicians should move to Nashville. One of the points he made is that when you surround yourself with other serious musicians, you level up your playing and expand your network.

He described how you will end up in a conversation with someone who you have no idea is wildly successful or even famous. Those chance meetings may lead to friendships and professional opportunities. At the very least, it means you are learning from those who are far ahead of you. You get to be among them, and you just don’t know where that kind of access can lead.

It reminded me of the feeling I get when I’m in Manhattan. The moment I step off the train, I can feel the energy of people striving to create. This is one of the reasons why artists, writers, and creators move to New York City. I was thinking about all of the performers I have seen just walking around on the streets of New York City when I used to work there. These are people I saw randomly on the street or in an everyday situation mixed in with the crowd:

  • Sting walking with a guitar case on his back
  • Emma Watson standing outside a restaurant waiting for a friend
  • Adam Yauch kissing his wife and daughter goodbye, then skateboarding away
  • Ric Ocasek walking past a restaurant I was eating in
  • David Byrne riding a bicycle right in front of me
  • Christian Bale walking out of a hotel

While these are fun highlights, the real people I was surrounded with were working writers, artists, designers, editors, people who are obsessed with creating and sharing. Every cafe, every event, every meetup would be filled with people who were immersed in the creative process.

Imagine what that would feel like in your life, if you were surrounded by people who write. Who are always thinking about stories and books and reading. What would that experience be like?

Immerse Yourself With the Creative Process

When you surround yourself with people who write, you immerse yourself with the creative process. These are positive role models, those who in subtle ways validate the idea that you have permission to create. That making your writing is a priority. That ensure the creative process is a daily practice that must be attended to. That, even though it may be difficult, you keep at it.

When you only surround yourself with people who have said “yes” to their creative dreams, it encourages you to double-down on your own.

In doing so, you will be able to observe what works for other writers. How they find the time and energy to create. The methods by which they share their work. You may get a clearer understanding of how multifaceted the life of a writer may be. There is no one “right way” to do it, and truly seeing that may allow you to more easily find the writing life that works best for you.

Immersing yourself in the creative process of others also allows you to see what they struggle with. That may quiet any anxieties that you may have about your own creative process. You will realize that you are not alone in these struggles. When you surround yourself with others, you learn that this is difficult for everyone. I mean, imagine feeling totally comfortable with how you create and share your writing.

Of course, in situations like this, you would be doing more than just observing. You would be interacting. If you are an introvert like me, those interactions can be slow, perhaps you focus more on 1:1 conversations than big group engagements. But imagine if every week you had a conversation with writer or reader in your genre or topic. Or 5 conversations. Or 10. What could you learn in that process. How would that help you feel fulfilled as a writer — someone who is immersed in a community of people who celebrate the type of work you do?

Frequency matters here. I think there is a difference between going to a monthly meetup with writers vs engaging with other writers every day. You observe different things, and you are able to form a different kind of professional relationship.

How to Surround Yourself With Writers and Readers

I’m going to assume that your life is super busy with important responsibilities, so you don’t have the time or even the access to physically surround yourself with writers and readers. Maybe you don’t live in a region where you have a thriving writing or arts community, there are zero local meetup groups for writers, few arts organizations, and almost no bookstores or other places to meet writers and readers.

What to do?

This (or your own unique version of it):

  • Use Amazon and Goodreads to research and identify 10 books published in the last three years that are comparable to yours. That would be on the shelf next to you. Then, read those books. Then, email each author a thank you note, telling them what you liked most about their books. Make a small mention at the end that you write as well and how their book has helped you.
  • Then get in the habit of emailing one person a week a similar letter. These could be comparable authors, but also anyone who supports the books you love. People who speak at events, who organize events, who run bookstores, who are sources for your work, who are readers of that work. There are more than 10 people who are working in your genre, topic or niche. Identify one of these people per week, then send them a thank you email.
  • Flip how you use social media. Don’t worry about gaining followers or likes. Instead, focus your efforts on how you can make someone’s day. Focus on one person at a time. As you research and identify the other writers in your field, celebrate them publicly. Do a series of posts about their books. See what they share and amplify it. Literally give their books away.
  • Find an excuse to collaborate. Why have I had a blog and newsletter for 15 years? Why do I do a weekly podcast? It’s all an excuse to meet the people I am most inspired by: writers and creators! Consider ways that you could collaborate with others. Could you do mini-interviews with these people on a blog or podcast? Or could you even do that on an Instagram feed? This is not about a content strategy, it’s about finding meaningful reasons to go deeper with these people. To have a conversation or interaction.

None of this requires you to leave the house. None of this requires you to have amazing credentials. None of this self-promotion. It is all creating experiences to surround yourself with writers and readers who love the same kinds of things you do.

Are you wondering how any of this connects back to effective marketing for your writing? Well, I can tell you that I have met a lot of successful writers. And every single one of them had a thriving network of people who create. They did not write and publish and share in a vacuum. They were a part of an ecosystem of people who love this work.

That creates word-of-mouth marketing. It creates a fulfilling experience of how you share your work. And it creates the possibility for luck to happen in the process.

This begins with you reaching out. With finding a small but meaningful way to establish connections to other writers and readers. This is a first step. When you invest in a connection to other people, you are investing in a fulfilling experience.

Plus, it’s fun!