Networking vs Not Working

I was at a con a few months ago talking to an artist who I had met a few times before. He had a booth and I was just walking the floor, and we were sharing our impressions of the show in general. We both agreed that the turn-out was not very good.He asked me about who else was on the show floor. I shrugged and said that I was not too impressed. A few nice looking projects, but mostly I was just going around talking to the other creators so that they would know who I am. And then there was that awkward pause... "Like we are both doing right now." And we laughed. We are both relentless self-promoters. We were networking.

Everyone who knows how the comics business works will tell you that it is who you know as much as it is what you know. The exact ratio between them varies from person to person, but you need both.

Someone who does not network is not going to work.

Beware, however, of the allure of putting the cart before the horse.

Working, on your own, in seclusion, and for no pay, must come before networking. This work that you do toward perfecting your craft must come before "getting your name out there".

The reason that this is important to point out, as opposed to being completely obvious, is that seductive allure I mentioned above. It goes like this... I know that networking is essential to a career in comics. To move forward, I must network. Networking effectively takes time and energy. This time and energy I am expending is going toward my career in comics. I am good it, as evidenced by my many contacts and associates in the comics field.

Can you tell how good that feels? I get the energy of meeting new people and finding what they are all about. I get attention and praise. I get contacts! And it feels, because everyone has told me how important it is to network, like I am advancing toward my dream! Advancing without the arduous labor of actually making the stuff. Without the emotional risk of putting myself behind a creative endeavor. Without the loss of hours and hours at the drawing (or writing) board. Without the Without the risk of wasting all of that on a project that goes nowhere.

All of the benefits and none of costs!

Except that if you don't do all of the real, hard, work, when your networking finally pays off and the editor of your dreams shakes your hand, looks you in the eye, and asks "what have you got for me?"...

all you will have is "a bunch of great ideas" or "some pin-ups and commissions"...

or, as it is known in the comics industry: "nothing".

Absolutely get good at networking, but not if it means not working.

-Josh Dahl