Selfies With Strangers and Other Notes on My Writer’s Journey: A Brief New Year’s Reflection
Your written word, social media, and even your phone’s camera can become great networking tools IF you play it smart.
Let’s begin with a montage first, as led off above by iconic television writer and producer Norman Lear (“All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “One Day at a Time,” among others). Then, let me know how many people here you recognize and send me a message. (Note: Not all of these images are selfies; the majority of them are.)
Hint: In this mix you will find Lestat’s mom, Norm’s buddy, a genie, the creator of Motown, the director of one of my favorite “Star Wars” films (which never fails to cause me grief), a former MMA and WWE Women’s World champ, and more.
Am I in a sense “dropping names” with this self-indulgent post? Sure thing. I can meet anyone and I want to prove it to you. My writing career has assured me of that privilege.
I want to show you how you can too.
But first, a question: Do you know where I was 15 years ago?
Home, because when friends invited me to a weekly McDonalds gathering and I gave excuses, in reality I couldn’t afford French fries.
I worked my ass off, that’s what happened. As you read on, understand that meeting or knowing some celebrities of a certain profile — and them knowing you — is fine and well for bragging rights but relatively meaningless unless the bills are paid.
It’s about successful networking, not oogling.
When I meet a public figure I want to meet, my intention is two-fold: 1) to build a relationship, and 2) to eventually engage in business.
Some valuable networking tips to attain those goals:
- “Go where the elephants are.” The term is an oft-used chestnut in the business networking field, meaning that in order to meet those of influence whom you wish to meet, you must go where they are. California and New York are ripe for writers wishing to meet other writers and some celebrities; however, even if you are in a small town you should attend nearby writing and/or film conferences. Further, use social media. Several of the people pictured in my montage I had actually met for the first time on Facebook and Twitter. Join their fan pages. Send messages or posts if you cannot afford to attend an event. Many a relationship has been engaged on those two platforms as well as Linkedin, the leader of all business networking sites and yes, writers groups are among them. Pop-culture cons are also great places to meet public figures and/or highly-established creatives.
- If you are looking to engage in business, you may want to stray from asking for an autograph. But, you may think, Isn’t asking for a selfie as bad? That depends. I engage first, and if the conversation goes well — and sometimes if contact information is exchanged (you never know) — I ask before we part. I always then ask the person if they’d mind my sharing the photo on my social media. They know as I do, it’s all about self-promotion. Nothing is hidden, there. The people you are asking are generally very savvy about the particular value thereof. The worst they can say is “no.”
- Recognize that everyone you meet is a window to someone you may want to meet. The degrees of distance between the relationships may vary (“My wife’s sister’s brother’s cousin knows the college roommate of a former Vice President’s brother,” for example), but eventually those degrees will lessen in direct proportion to the growth of your network.
- Talk to everyone.
- Never be afraid to ask someone to mentor you. Here’s some psychology: Many public figures find it difficult to trust members of the general public and why not? The perception is most everyone wants something and they are not wrong. The other piece of psychology to understand is that they are rarely told “no.” Break the mood. Tell a joke. Be yourself. You’ll never know where it will lead and I’ll add: The majority of my professional relationships have been attained by doing exactly this once we met. I never put forth what’s expected in these circumstances.
- Public figures generally put their underwear on (okay, if they wear any at all) the same way you do. They’re human. Don’t treat them as if they’re royalty. You may be surprised at how many celebrities appreciate being treated “normally.”
- Word travels. You may be surprised if someone you have been working towards meeting actually knows of you through your social media posts. I could have been knocked over with a feather, pardon the cliche, when one of my favorite authors told me he was a fan of my first novel. I asked how he knew; he said he regularly read my Facebook.
Let me share something else with my readers here, something candid: I am not a fan of this type of article. I’ve run hot and cold even writing it because the line between utter self-indulgence and being helpful is thin.
My goal here is pure, however. I want to help fellow creatives, which is why I write as many posts on writing as I do. Some of you may find my journey to be impractical for your circumstance.
As ever, adapt what works for you and go from there.
One further share: I have posted some of these pointers on another platform. What I received back from a few readers was notable. I was told I was “already established,” and meeting people is “easier” for me anyway. I appreciated the comment then as now, and I am repeating my response here as a pre-emptive strike: I put the work in. I knew nobody when I moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles first in 1989. No one. My relationships developed by following the bullet points I’ve expressed above.
Real life experience, if you will.
So … once more: If a guy who could not afford McDonald’s French fries 15 years ago can meet anyone, you can too … including famed porn stars who help the shmuck promote his latest science fiction-fantasy novels at Comic Con International because, well, the writer flat-out asked knowing it would trigger a conversation.
I was right, it did, and he did.
When you meet me, let’s take a selfie together and let me know if it leads anywhere.
Thank you for reading.
If you have found this article of value, feel free to recommend, share and follow me here on Medium (and I will follow you back), where I publish new stories daily on a variety of topics.
If you would like links to new stories sent directly to your inbox, please email me at email@example.com.