Sometimes it feels like there are insurmountable walls, made of thick brick and covered in "No Trespassing" signs, built around these groups. It can feel like you're not allowed to talk to the other groups until you, in fact, are permitted to enter the next wall.
But here's the thing—those walls aren't really there. They might look real, but if you tilt your head a little to the left you'll see that they're holograms made from assumptions. Assumptions that you don't belong, that you aren't good enough, and that the people on the "other side" think that, too. Those walls are nothing but the ghosts of insecurity, and the only thing they're really doing is holding you back.
Published authors? They are busy folk, but they were once unpublished, too. They are the people they've always been. As I've gone through this journey, I'm always surprised by how...the same I am. Unfortunately, I have not morphed into a more exalted creature every time I've made it past another milestone. I still handle things the way I've always handled them—with a lot of hard work, thought, and panic. And the other writers I've seen "ahead" and "behind" me stay themselves as well.
I know it might sound crazy, but there is no real difference between you and a best-selling author, save the fact that they happened to write a book that reached a large audience. We are all writers. We're at different stages, sure, but that doesn't mean we can't reach out to each other, in both directions. I absolutely LOVE hearing from writers, and this year alone I've made several writer friends from all stages in the process.
Now, I want to make this clear, I'm not giving you a pass to send John Green or Maureen Johnson or Sarah Dessen emails of family pictures and proclamations that you should be their best friend. I'm just saying that they, and every other writer, are people (generally extremely nice people, too, despite how busy they are). Yes, writers have "established" friends, but that doesn't mean you are unwelcome. Yes, they tend to hole up around deadline, but that doesn't mean they are shutting you out (It means they are shutting EVERYONE out, maybe even their spouse.). Yes, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but the only wall between the published and unpublished is the one you make. So why not make it a pretty white picket fence with a gate that swings both ways?