What do you need to be a writer? In the past it used to be a pen. These days, obviously, you can do without a pen. In the past, it used to be a backbone too. These days you need a network.
As someone who has never had a network, I considered myself an oddity until I came across these lines in one of Charles Bukowski’s novels: “The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of writers. Like flies on the same turd.”” Now, Bukowski’s novels have an exaggerated reputation for realism: anyone who knows anything about women would take them with a pinch of salt. And a six-pack of beer. But I am convinced that when Bukowski talked about writing — or drinking — the man was dead honest.
If he were alive today, he would be in for a shock. The network that writers need today does not really include other writers, or it need not. In order to be successful as a writer — really successful in commercial or literary terms — what you need is a network of editors, agents, publishers, festival organisers, socialites, and heavyweight reviewers. No, you do not necessarily need a backbone.