You’ve all seen the memes.
The tote bags that proclaim, “don’t talk to me, I’m scheming your fictional death,” the mugs that argue “books are better than people,” and dozens of other introverted slogans plastered on merchandize items sold at the front of Barnes and Nobles. The endless pinterest boards and Instagram feeds full of #relatable #booklover content. Yeah. We’ve all seen ’em.
Listen, this is coming from someone as stereotypically socially awkward as your next INTJ “not like other girls” author, but finding a supportive community of other creative friends has been the BEST thing for my own creative motivation, the quality of my work, and the improvement of my overall mental health. I’ve shared in the past few weeks how my various friends helped me out through the making of my mistcloak and rambled about the joy and tears they bring me in our dnd games, and I consider myself very blessed to know them. There’s a certain disconnect between myself and people who don’t make stuff. On some fundamental level, I cannot understand people who do not have a story to tell, who don’t have that itch to share art with the world. I need other creative people who can share my passion to stay sane and happy, and with no exaggeration, the people I’ve grown to know and love in the past couple years are the only reason I survived the more difficult parts of quarantine and college.
If you’re looking to expand your own social network of creative people, here are some ways to make friends in those spaces:
Finding the nerds
Join Clubs: If you are still in school, this is the easiest way to get a high concentration of artistic folks in one room. If there’s no such thing as a writer’s group, consider looking into the Dungeons and Dragons/Tabletop Roleplaying Game club (and read my post on how DnD made me a better writer), a book club, or art groups such as knitting/crochet/painting clubs. Show up consistently, and you’ll get to know the other regulars soon enough.
Join Community Groups: If you’re not in school, this is the easiest way to make friends as an adult. These can be a little bit harder to find because they aren’t centralized in the same way clubs at a school are, but google and the library are great places to start. If you have a community rec center, that’s also a good place to look. Find the poster boards full of flyers, and take note of when the meetings occur for any clubs that look interesting. Many libraries have writing and crafting groups and book clubs. Your local game store might be able to get you in contact with other dnd players. Some community centers offer classes that you can sign up for. The point is to get out of your house and attending events regularly.
Check Out National Organizations Local Chapters: The one that immediately springs to mind is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, and often for the camps in July and April, the local municipal liaisons host write-ins and other fun events to help people meet their word count goals. If you make friends with the writers there, you can keep in touch and challenge each other to sprints throughout the year as well, use each other as sounding boards, and cheer each other when you meet major milestones. I’m sure there are other national organizations dedicated to fostering the writing and creative communities, so do some investigating to see if there’s perhaps an inktober drawathon or a fantasy writer’s month doing events in your city. Renaissance Faires are also a great place to hang out and network.
Online Communities: To be clear, you need real people friends to pull you out of your house as well, but I can’t stress enough how fantastic the writeblr space is on tumblr. If you’re into fanfiction, then you’re probably already familiar with wattpad and Archive of our Own. If you’re reading this, I would encourage you to check out more blogs under the writing tag on wordpress! There are so many wonderful people to meet despite the distance.
Ok, so you found them. Now how do you talk to them?
Show up: The sooner you can become a regular, the sooner people will start knowing your face and striking up friendly conversation. The reason making friends in elementary school was so much simpler was because you were forced to spend 8 hours in close proximity to those people. If you simply put in the time to attend weekly meetings and regular events, you may find yourself making friends effortlessly as you bond with your shared interest!
Find the Extroverts: They’re probably the ones leading the club, and they’re probably the ones who will come up to welcome you first. Don’t try to squirm out of those conversations, but if you can endear yourself to one social butterfly, it won’t take long until you find yourself dragged into an extensive friend group. Don’t be clingy or creepy, but if you stay near to them, eventually the other people will come to you by proxy.
Never Say No (Within Reason): Did you get invited to a write in? A trip to the local museum? A music venue? Out to eat after a regular meeting? Unless there’s a legitimate safety or scheduling or health reason not to go with them, try to say yes as often as possible! More often than not, you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience, and it’s an opportunity to get to know the people better, outside of the structured meeting times, which is how deeper friendships form. Making the conscious effort to spend more time in social situations with people who could be potential friends will slowly expand the amount of space for interaction in your social battery. Likewise, being reclusive will make you require more alone time. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a healthy amount is a good thing, but not to the point that it’s harmful and uncomfortable. It’s perfectly ok to go along to a bar, then order a soda and listen to the conversation instead of being the life of the party. They’ll still appreciate your company.
Networking in real life: Yes, this word is scary. I still find it terrifying. At a Ren Faire this past summer, my friend Ben had to all but force me to self promote my stories to an interested librarian, so I’m certainly no expert, but this is the formula that tends to work in my experience:
- Strike up a conversation naturally with a stranger. They might be a shopkeeper at a faire, or someone you’re randomly paired with at an event.
- Find something you have in common – usually through the event.
- Vibe Check – is this someone you’d like to get to know better? Is this someone that could help you out with a problem you’re having? If yes, proceed to step four, if not, proceed to step five.
- If you want to connect with that person, say, “Hey I really enjoyed chatting with you and I’d love to stay in touch. What’s a good way that I can keep in contact with you?”
- If you don’t want to connect with them, say, “Thanks for chatting,” and return to step 1. Always be polite, never burn a bridge.
- Acquire contact information, either through a phone number or social media. If you get their number, include a little section in the notes about where you met them and something memorable about them or the conversation you had to jog your memory later, and ask for a picture so you can match the face to the name if you have a terrible memory like me.
- Follow up. That evening, whenever you get home from the event, or the following day, text or DM them and say, “Hey it’s [Name], it was really nice talking with you at [event] the other day. Thanks for [relevant detail.]”
- Continue that conversation if possible by asking appropriate questions about them and their work, especially if your previous conversation got cut off due to time constraints or something like that.
- Ask if they’ll be at the next meeting and say you’ll see them there, that way they know to look for you and keep chatting later!
Networking online: This is slightly less terrifying because you can operate behind a screen name and take time to formulate responses, but still can be intimidating if you’re trying to get into a new community. I have another formula for you!
- Introduce yourself with a formal post – pin it somewhere convenient so people know who you are at a glance. Update your profile picture so you don’t look like a bot.
- Lurk for a bit to learn the etiquette so you don’t accidentally make a fool of yourself – but not too long, so you don’t get intimidated
- Follow a few people who seem cool and start sharing their work with friendly comments – if you show up regularly in someone’s notifications, they’ll start to recognize you as a friend and check out your work in turn
- Post your own work! Do not be afraid to throw your personal blorbos at the internet! Be as passionate as possible and people will wonder what’s up with that and become curious to learn more
- Participate in trends, tag games, ask games, community challenges, and stuff to get you on people’s radar as an active member of the community
- Be patient! Social media is meant to be a social place – don’t worry about building a brand, just be yourself and hang out.
- Unofficial Rule Seven: Say hi to me! Comments are always open. Just saying! I don’t bite.
Volunteer: Is it too hard for you to network as an attendee? Try signing up to help run these events instead! You’ll receive specific instructions on what to do, which takes the pressure off figuring out social situations yourself, since you’ll be busy setting up and conducting the activity. And people will come up to you to strike up a conversation, so you don’t have to initiate the interaction. Additionally, the staff usually have special privileges and security, smaller group chats, and the shared experience creates closer bonds between them. In my personal experience, people who volunteer for one job are involved as leaders in ten other groups too, so this is an extremely efficient way to make connections with the extroverts who always know another guy. You might even become one of them!
Thanks for reading! I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void. If I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip or buying stickers on my Kofi. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!