a) having a good time with your friends; b) talking with people who have common interests about intellectually stimulating subjects related to the said interests (yes, I know, that's fun for me too--but for some people they're not completely overlapping sets); c) making and/or maintaining personal contacts with people who are in the same business as you; d) conversing on specific business-related topics; e) none of the above?
You forgot (f) - all of the above except (e)
I guess everyone finds their own balance, even if it's hating the whole thing and hiding out in their hotel room with takeaway and the TV (which I have also done); but mostly, yeah. For me it's a combo thing. I go with lots of good intentions to network and talk business and make contacts and like that; and I generally end up hanging out in the bar with friends. It's cons without bars that I really struggle with. Or those where the bar is apparently deliberately detached from the main progress of the con, where it ought to be the heart of it.
We used to have election parties in the UK, where we'd all gather with whoever had the biggest room/TV/selection of alcohol, and drown our sorrows through the night till we could bear no more. That was back in the 80s and 90s, when we all knew there would be sorrows to drown and it was just better in company. Then '97 happened, and Labour won, and that was just an extraordinary night - only then in power they turned out to be not so different any more after all, and all that radical excitement drained away into a kind of world-weary cynicism, and the parties died around us. Last election night, I don't think I even bothered.
See, that's why I said it could be any combination.
I've done all of the above at cons, but the talking business usually takes me by surprise, and I've found that it's best to let it. If I go with the idea that I will have good conversations with smart people and see my friends, and then Editor A says, "Send me more of x but not of y," and Editor B says, "Be in my anthology!", then I say, "Wow! That was unexpected!" Whereas if I go thinking, "Business! I will be doing of the business!", then...possibly missing the good conversations, less struck by the unexpected editorial goodness. Y'know?
The other thing is: people get hung up on Networking!. Like Networking! is the magic word. What are you doing at this con? I, Sir! I am Networking! (Heroic pose here.) And they take advice on the Networking! But...they don't always look at who is giving the advice. So-and-so said that such-and-such was the best Networking! she'd done. And these things can be long-term, and I don't want to get judgy, but...has So-and-so sold anything in the N years since she did that Networking!, N > 5? Anything at all? A flash piece, perhaps? No? Then perhaps So-and-so should admit that she was having a good time at a party? And perhaps you should take her advice for having good times at parties and not so much for the magic of Networking!?
So-and-so said that such-and-such was the best Networking! she'd done. And these things can be long-term, and I don't want to get judgy, but...has So-and-so sold anything in the N years since she did that Networking!, N > 5? Anything at all? A flash piece, perhaps? No? Then perhaps So-and-so should admit that she was having a good time at a party?
I have seen people who get results from networking get quite remarkable results from it (though not in the fiction field). That said, those remarkable results tend to be visible on the timescale of months or sometimes years, rather than decades...
The thing is, if you want to use "networking" as an umbrella term for everything from "talked to a person at a party" to "established a reputation for being a smart, sensible, caring, interesting person who does hard work in various areas over a long, long time," then I can see why networking gets such a great reputation. It's just that you have to remember to use scale labels if you're trying to talk about it including all that. And if you're just doing the "talked to a person at a party" kind of networking, that's a very different critter.
Right, no, I would not describe the establishing a reputation thing as "networking", because of the scale differences you describe.
I'm talking about people I knew from MIT first persuading people they met at parties that they were smart, and then following up on that via email to parlay said impressions into business relationships (which eventually led to jobs).
The key point with this kind of networking is that it requires follow-up to be more than just "hanging around at a party". I wouldn't describe my interactions with various editors at FogCon as networking, by this standard, and I think that's a fair distinction to draw. Others' opinions may differ.
I think networking is one of those things like happiness or finding friends that only happens as a side effect and not when pursued as a goal.
I certainly think that this is true in the context of SF fandom. That said, however, once you generalize it to the context of industry conferences and the like, my approach (pursuing interesting conversations rather than actively shmoozing) is demonstrably less effective than that of some of my peers.
I definitely hear you re: the simulating friendliness, though. Given the size of the SFF community and the speed at which publishing moves, that sort of thing just seems like a waste of everyone's time.
Edited at 2012-07-02 06:21 pm (UTC)
"That said, those remarkable results tend to be visible on the timescale of months or sometimes years, rather than decades..."
What I have learned from listening in to people talking on funerals and listening to old (over 70) people in general - actually people ARE actively cashing in the results of the networking they did decades ago when they age.
2012-07-02 04:43 am (UTC)
I still think of networking as something you make computers do. Perhaps this is why I haven't sold any stories, but more likely it's the fact that I haven't written any that's holding me back in that department. :-)
2008, I followed the results until a preliminary report from some state came back wrong and then I decided apple pie, blueberry muffins, and cornbread would be better for everyone.
The lead-up to Election Day is making me very glad not to be in the US. I hear it's even worse than usual. Enough of the news still gets to me via Internet, personal and local channels that I feel fully informed of all I need to know, without feeling like I'm being swept away by rising hysteria. I know I would have a hard time not being swept away if I were there, too, because the results of this election are likely to affect me significantly, in ways that were not always true for many previous ones. (Healthcare, basically.)
On the topic of over-busy-ness, the problem with working in an office is that you also have to deal with others' expectations - which I realize is true for writers too, but in the case of offices, some of those others have direct control over your paycheck and continued employment.
I like the idea of an organized "post about other things" for Election Day.
Also, it's worth remembering that a lot of people who followed the results closely in 2008 (I didn't) also did so in 2000, and a lot of good watching that one closely did them. This won't necessarily stop anyone, but it might help in terms of remembering that not only is it too late to affect the results by then, but that following closely may not produce information quickly. (This is mostly a reminder to myself, rather than you.)
And sometimes that future goal is something that can be pursued some other way, and sometimes not.
Like if you say to yourself, "Well, this isn't any fun, but at least I'm Supporting The Arts," that works for one concert, but if you're saying that for the whole of the opera season, maybe you should go to plays or the symphony or chamber music or the puppet theater instead.
Neat distraction, very timely! Thanks, Kit!
I suspect that the current record is held by Hamlet, and it may be more than 44.
2012-07-02 04:51 pm (UTC)
Unless perhaps you think it's important to know as soon as possible whether it's time to bolt for Costa Rica, election day is the worst day to focus on following the politics, because it's too late to really do much about them.
All of this is so very, very true.
I have a fine appreciation for the importance of not being too busy. It's convincing my bosses that's the tricky part. (You think I'm kidding, but since my bosses consult with me about how to make other employees more creative and productive, and want to hear what the psychological literature says...)
I have officially hit the 538 Boundary with this election--that's the point where I stop reading any Horse Race news except for Nate Silver's statistical analyses. He has Obama at about 60% to win, and has had him there for the past couple of months, with little change based on scandals, photo opportunities, and Supreme Court cases. This is good for my stress level, while keeping me informed of actual changes.