If you have successful friends, you will be successful. It’s pretty much that simple. If you hang out with a bunch of losers, you too will adopt their loser ways and not achieve anything. Regardless of whether or not you go out and network, please make sure that your friends are ambitious and hard working people who you admire.
The writers I hang out with, work with, swap editing with, and read all have one thing in common: they write. Usually they write a lot. And when they write, they’re serious about getting their writing out there, one way or another.
I used to describe them as people who were working to get published (and I appointed myself as judge of whether they were realistic in that, for better or worse). Now I look a little more widely, realizing that there are many paths, and many measures of success; now I look for writers who have defined useful goals and work to achieve them. (Again, whether the goals are useful is something I judge for myself.)
But people who talk about wanting to write? They aren’t people I talk to about writing. People who have been working on the same novel for ten years? People who have this one idea they’d like to turn into a novel? People who do nothing but “free-writing”? People who don’t want feedback on their work?
Those are good people, fine people. I have no problem with those people. But they aren’t people I talk to about writing. The people whose opinions I value, whose stories I hang on, whose work I seek out and ask to read and offer to help with and whose signed copies I display on my shelf with pride: those are writers.
And there’s another side to this: why would those people want to hang out with me? They are perfectly capable of judging my goals, and whether I’m working towards them realistically. And there’s no doubt that plenty of them have considered me and found me wanting, by their standards. And that’s fine, too.
In short, to be a peer of other people whose work you respect, work like hell and make sure that what you produce is at least approaching the same sort of quality. If you want to hang out with great people, start by being one of those people.