It’s the Lovecraft Season! H.P. Lovecraft didn’t gain a lot of notoriety during his own lifetime. While he wrote many short stories that are now considered classics, he was literally a starving artist died a pauper. He was wealthy in terms of friends, however, and it was those friends who kept his work alive. He built a great network and support system that provided him with companionship and intellectual stimulation. Here are some tips on building that kind of network, regardless of whether you’re a writer, and artist, or in any line of business.
Correspond with people you respect and admire. If there’s a living person whose work you really love, consider dropping them a line. Stay positive, tell them what you liked about it. Maybe you write an old-fashioned letter and send it snail mail; maybe it’s an email, tweet, or Facebook comment. You can tell them how they’ve influenced their work, but don’t make it about self-promotion. Keep it about them and their work, but don’t turn into a stalker. You may never get a response, you may get a form letter, but you may well strike up a new friendship. Stranger things have happened.
Encourage rising stars. If you come across someone you’ve never heard of, but they’ve done something you find impressive, send them a note of encouragement. Don’t criticize – if you don’t like every little bit about their work, stick to the points you do and tell them you see potential. People starting out always like to know their work has been seen and appreciated, and everyone needs an ego boost. If it develops into regular correspondence, then you can start offering advice.
Cross-promote everyone else. If you like someone’s work, or they indicate other peoples’ work they like, make recommendations. That established person you respect might enjoy the work of the up-and-comer; the new kid may never have heard of the elder statesman whose work you grew up with. New folks may be looking for peers to bounce ideas off of. You build a circle by making introductions and facilitating new relationship between people you know.
Share your ideas. Before the existence of Creative Commons licenses and fan fiction, Lovecraft found subtle, legal ways to pay homage to other authors. He name dropped characters, made passing reference to fictional places, and played around with other peoples’ monsters. In turn, he was cool with other people playing in his playground. The key was keeping the work original and the references subtle. What happened was, people who like Lovecraft started checking out those other authors, and vice-versa. I wouldn’t have an appreciation for Robert Chambers or even Edgar Allan Poe if it weren’t for Lovecraft. Find a way to link your sandboxes together, and everyone benefits for an increased audience.
How has Lovecraft influenced your circle? What other lessons can we learn from Lovecraft about personal and professional networking?