As I'm thinking ahead toward sending out my manuscripts to possible publishers in the near future and applying for artist (poet)-in-residence positions at various institutions, I of course think about how nice it is to have contacts in the writing world. Then everything would fall into my lap. Or at least not pose such an uphill climb. Thankfully, I do have some contacts. The Director of Music at St. Michael's College (I don't actually know his position, but he's a great guy) has given me a name; my friend Megan Walther has a father in the publishing business (Christian publishing, no less); and Joanna Marcy Paysour's wedding gave me an opportunity to meet a fellow writer-hopeful. I haven't used any of these contacts yet, but it's nice knowing they are there.
None of those contacts are the reason why I'm writing this post, though. I mean, as much as I hate the process of networking--I fully believe that one should rely on one's talent and personality alone, and no one should go out of their way just to get ahead--the fact is that developing contacts is helpful in life. Whether we develop those contacts by so-called networking or simply by living life and meeting people who like us doesn't change the fact that more contacts equals more chances. So there's a lesson for the day.
Now that I think about it, I wonder how many people read the title of this post and thought I would be writing about eye contacts. Muahaha.
Anyway. In my world, developing contacts is useful in order to increase the chances of being published, yes, but there's far more to it than that for me. I prefer to think of networking as a means to fellowship and learn with and from others. For instance, as a Ministry Fellow with the Fund for Theological Education, I met nineteen other Master of Divinity students from across the country whose faith and skills are unquestionable. Like me, I am sure that they are driven to be the absolute best minister to parishes and communities that they can possibly be, an ambition that always brings along doubts and failures as well as joys and successes. If only for that reason I now feel as if I have nineteen similarly-aged colleagues that I can fall back on, reach out to, or just pray about. Some of them I already plan on relying on for reasons other than fellowship. Daniel 'Stu' Stulac has already broadened my vision in terms of farming, farming economy, and how we should view and take care of our environment, a cause near and dear to me; I've used him, so to speak, as a guest speaker already and, as my reading in Wendell Berry and farming news grows, I plan to ask frequent questions of him.
It might seem like I am selfishly describing my relationships with others. Indeed I am. But acknowledging how useful other people can be in our lives is not merely selfish, it's also a very humbling practice: "I cannot learn or do this thing on my own, so I need this other person who has the knowledge and skills." If I were merely networking, I would be entirely selfish; if I considered these persons only friends, then I'd be an arrogant fool. As a community of the faithful hoping to do something with our lives we need these symbiotic relationships. This is particularly true for me, a writer whose self-proclaimed expertise is in writing short essays: my perspective would be hopelessly narrow and eventually redundant if I didn't have people that could broaden my horizons, offer me new opportunities, challenge me, and constantly teach me.
And so, today I am sending a list of questions to an old contact of mine: Dr. Timothy Hamilton of the University of Richmond. He is a childhood friend of my brother's, and older brother to a childhood friend of mine. He is now a professor of economics, an environmental economist to be exact. Just what I'm looking for. In order to better some of the essays that I have thought out and further political writings that I am sure to write in the future, I need to understand the economy better. I've never really understood what we call the economy. Give me a book on the economy and I'm sure to understand, but it's not the whats and the equations of the economy that I struggle to figure out. It's the whys of our economy that don't seem to make sense. This contact will prove very helpful to my writing in the near and far future. Selfish of me to be contacting him now, after years of not hearing from or talking to him? Perhaps. But then again, isn't this why one would become a professor?
Since I'm mentioning him directly, I feel that I must refer you to his interesting and fun-to-read blog: