Last week I published my first story with the Times which has been a longstanding goal of mine. Part of the reason why the story came to be is because of networking--the nice, friendly kind, not the cold weird kind.
I was invited into a writing group a little over a year ago and joined even though I didn't hang much with the other writers socially and we don't all do the same type of work (note: these are the best kinds of groups to join, because there are cross-currents of ideas, nice staggered schedules, and minimal threats of competition.)
We meet once a quarter at a coffee shop to talk about what we're up to and get ideas for homes for stories or for better book deals or ways to get more money. We pass each other job leads we hear about. This last weekend I went to New York with a couple of members of my group for a work conference, even sharing transportation and rooming together, which was great for purposes of processing conference information and interactions after the fact -- not to mention having someone to drink mimosas with on the way over or to have somone to talk about the royal wedding with (I loved the looks Meghan and Harry were exchanging during Bishop Curry's sermon.)
We also keep each other accountable. At the end of 2017 we all stated our goals for 2018 and I said I'd like to be published in the New York Times. "But what are you going to do about it?" asked my friend Megy.
"Uhh, try real hard?" I said.
"Well maybe you can set a goal to pitch them once a month," she said. It was a good plan, much more concrete than any I had. And it worked.
Not every creative working group works--schedules can get crazy, or there isn't the right chemistry, or you have too much fun and don't business taken care of, in a flash or otherwise. But when somebody offers you the chance to learn from their motivation or knowledge, it's good to at least give it a try. In fact I recommend having at least two professional groups going at once, so if things get crazy in the first one, you can use the second one to complain to.
(Now, who caught the Ghostbusters reference in this post?)