Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

I received an e-mail earlier this week from a woman who had recently attended a clinic with Clinton. She’d bought his book and had all sorts of good things to say about it. (Buttering me up, of course, but what’s the harm in that, every now and again?)

She went on to say that she rode dressage, and was wondering if Cecelia (the English rider with a dressage background who is featured in the book) would be willing to exchange e-mails with her and answer a few questions. I contacted Cecelia, who was more than happy to be put in touch with her and offer advice.

Such a small thing. Why bring it up? I mention it because that simple exchange of e-mails illustrates three things that are key to your successful writing career.

1.) Be accessible.
The woman with questions had evidently first gone to my website. There, she had the option of reading a little bit more about the ladies featured in Clinton’s book. Perhaps that’s how she realized that one of them might be able to help her. Because of the contact information listed on the site, she was able to e-mail me with her request.

If you’re writing anything that goes before the public, a website is a must. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be as professional as you can make it. If someone goes looking for you, you should be able to be found. You never know when the person looking is someone who can make good things happen.

2.) Be amenable.
I have nothing to gain from putting the two women in touch. So what? It didn’t take much time for me to contact Cecelia and tell her of the woman’s request. It also didn’t take much time to convey Cecelia’s response. Now they can communicate with each other directly, and I’m out of the picture.

The point is, if you have information, knowledge, or skills that can help someone achieve his or her goals, why not put them to good use?

Remember – the writing world is all about networking. It’s about forging solid working relationships with people. At several points in my career, I have asked friends to recommend me or put me in touch with people they knew who might be able to help me. It would be the worst kind of vanity if I weren’t willing to do the same when asked.

And finally, the most important lesson from all of this:

3.) It NEVER hurts to ask.
The woman who wrote to me ran the risk of not getting in touch with Cecelia, and of not having her questions answered. Not a huge risk, when you analyze it. She took the time to do a little research. She said complimentary things about my work. And she asked a perfectly reasonable question.

So then it was my turn. I wrote and asked Cecelia what she thought about the whole thing. Again – the worst she could say was “no.” But she’s wonderful and helpful, so she didn’t.

Anyway, the point is, we often neglect to simply ask for what we want. I’m not talking about demanding a free ride, turning into a scary stalker psycho, or whining when things don’t go right. None of those are helpful to anyone.

No, what I mean is – sometimes, a name, a critique, an edit, or a recommendation could jump-start our careers… but we neglect to ask. We “don’t want to bother anyone,” or we “don’t want to put a friendship in jeopardy.” But asking for a recommendation or an opinion should hardly be a nuisance or jeopardize a relationship. If either happens, perhaps you need to re-evaluate the phrasing of the request!

If done correctly, tactfully, and respectfully, asking for career help should not offend or make anyone uncomfortable. Remember, the worst they can say is “no.” But a possible “yes” makes it all worthwhile.