Originally posted by Elizabeth Creith in Elizabeth Creith’s Scriptorium Feb 12, 2013 as “That Network Thing”, and used by permission.
On Friday a friend of mine who is also a professional artist in paint and collage called to ask me to write her a poem. She’s entering a show in which each piece displayed must be a collaboration among three artists, and she’d decided to use poetry, and hence a poet, as part of the collaboration.
Sheila had also commissioned a poem from my friend Pauline, who is part of To The Point, our local writers’ group. My first thought, when she told me that, was – “Wow! The writers’ group has become a resource for people who need writing done!” See, instead of having to hunt around for one poet, Sheila has several to choose from. Everyone in the writers’ group has written some poetry or verse, usually to prompts, and several of us write poetry or verse outside of the group meetings, too. That means that no matter what someone needs written, there’s at least one of us, and probably more, who could do it.
This wasn’t part of the raison d’etre of the writers’ group. I don’t think it even crossed our minds. When I think about it now, though, it makes a certain sense. If you have a professional group or special interest group dedicated to a particular pursuit, sooner or later you’re going to draw the attention of those who need whatever it is you do.
The other thing that Sheila told me was that she’d found out I did the poet-for-hire thing from another friend, Sandra McKee, the librarian at Thessalon Public Library. Sandra told her about the poetry I’ve been writing over the last couple of years for a man who was courting his girlfriend, and who eventually proposed to her, with my writing. It was a story I’d told her because I was so tickled to be asked to write a proposal, and so happy that my work had been part of a happy outcome for the guy who commissioned it. I enjoyed telling Sandra that story, and she enjoyed hearing it, and, obviously, retelling it.
I’m pretty sure that no amount of advertising in any periodical could have the connection power of a real-time, face-to-face conversation with someone who is honestly enthusiastic about a product. Of course I knew this before. All the same, hearing about her conversation with Sandra, and knowing that it had led directly to her calling me, drove the point home again.
Advertising gives information. Given the price per word of classified ads, and the price per page-or-part-thereof for the other kind, we keep them too the point. Sandra told Sheila a story, a story I’d never have the resources to put into an advertisement. It takes a network to spread those stories. As a corollory, it takes stories to make a network.
Schmoozing at the local small-business meet-and-greet and passing out the business cards is one useful way of networking. I think my favourite way, though, is telling stories. Sometimes, as in this case, a story told can generate business. Even if it doesn’t, though, it’s fun to tell a good story, to hear one, and to pass it on. It’s a self-rewarding thing right down the line. Everybody wins.