And yes, Erin is every bit as engaging in print is she is in person…which is to say, very engaging indeed!
Celeste Behe Knows Where I Live: A Few Thoughts on Networking
I really have to thank Celeste for hosting me on this topic. It’s a topic that we writers, especially those of us newer to networking, really need to ponder. You can’t throw a bread roll at the internet without hitting fifteen articles about the importance of networking for writers. Often those articles are overwhelming, intentionally contradictory, or just lists of outdated links through which you probably don’t have time to fish. Even if you did, would that time be well-spent?
Tomorrow is the feast of Bl. Miguel Pro, or as I like to call him, Secret Agent Saint. Bl. Miguel used his network of friends to bring the sacraments to the people of Mexico at a time when the Catholic faith was being severely repressed. He would dress as a police officer one moment then switch into a beggar’s garb the next, putting on whatever face would bring him close enough to the people who needed Jesus. Regarding his adventures, he said, “I assure you that I spin like a top from here to there with such luck as is the exclusive privilege of petty thieves.”
In entering the homes and lives of these Catholics, however, Bl. Miguel put their lives and livelihoods at risk as well. What made them so willing to stick their necks out for him? Trust—trust in God, and the trust that Bl. Miguel had earned through his relationships with the people he served. We all have that opportunity in our daily lives, even in our professional lives. Introverts like myself may consider “networking” a dirty word, but as long as we’re acting as the face of Christ, networking is just another word for evangelization.
If networking is evangelization, then, networking is also approaching others not as a predator looking for backs to step on on your way to the top of the heap. Faithful Catholic networking is the art of building relationships within the heart of Jesus. Whether through unnatural pride or a naturally introverted temperament, I am no good at cold-calling (or cold-emailing) people, asking them to help me with my career. I am totally comfortable, however, getting others to talk about themselves and finding out I can be of service to them.
That’s how I connected with our lovely hostess Celeste at the Catholic Writers Conference Live last August. I got to know her because she was looking for travel advice regarding the region where I live. I may not be comfortable going up to a random stranger and asking, “Would you consider reviewing my NFP murder-mystery?” But I can tell you where to get an Amish buggy ride and free hot potato chips right out of the fryer! Once we had an actual give-and-take, I didn’t feel at all nervous several weeks later asking Celeste to host me for a blog tour stop. After all, she knows where I live! I doubt we would have felt so comfortable with each other if we had come to the CWG conference with a mindset of, “Okay, what can I get out of these people that will help me get published and make me rich and famous?” Because, I’m sorry to say, that’s the mindset I encountered the most (not exclusively, just the most) during my brief and largely unsuccessful foray into the secular publishing world. My discomfort with that approach is probably what made my foray so wobbly.
Networking is just another way to serve others. I’ve been on the receiving end of that service a lot lately. As Neil Combs, author of A Body in Prayer, told me, “One should approach networking with a learning attitude. Always assume the other person knows more (which for me is often the case.) Learn who a person is and what they've done. (You'll never find out ‘how someone can help you,’ unless you know who they are, and what they have to offer.) Through that you'll find the ability to create a friendship which is a much greater and more productive network than a strictly business network.”
So we Catholic writers get to relax. We’re not here to get famous or make money. We’re here to know God, love Him and serve Him in this world and then be happy with Him in the next. The fame and the money won’t follow us there, even if we do get them here. The love, however, that we cultivate in our relationships—that will follow us. It will be waiting for us there, and it will bolster us through the tough times now. Love never fails.
Viva Christo Rey! Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us.