To write well, we must know something about the world and those (other than us) who inhabit it. We are enriched when we have multiple perspectives, and we shouldn't get these perspectives from reading alone. To write assumes a reader, so even when you write, you should think of the readers looking over your shoulder.
I want to advocate for a rather radical idea: that writers should get out of the house more often. I've been trying to do this myself, with good effect. Other people not only give us different perspectives, helping us grow as people, but they transmit a kind of energy that helps our work (and life) improve. Writers need community too.
I'm writing this post at the Boston Public Library (Main Branch) in a room filled with students, retirees, and, yes, fellow writers. I am also surrounded by thousands of books and a helpful library staff willing to help me find any piece of information I could want. These library research people were Google far before Google was invented. This is a great atmosphere to work in, and it fuels creativity.
The people around us can also become our clients, so it's a good idea to get out and circulate among them. Which brings us to the delicate (at least for writers) topic of networking. It is absolutely necessary for writers, just as it is for any freelance professional. That doesn't mean it needs to be a dirty word.
My friend Dorie Clark, a terrific writer and educator, has written at length about how introverts can be highly effective networkers. Her book, Stand Out Networking, makes the case that networking is the best way to maintain and grow our client base, but that it need not be about walking around glad-handing everyone, fake-smiling, and handing out business cards. Networking, Clark says, has been wrongly perceived as "redolent of sleazy operators and Machiavellian maneuvering." (Told you she had a way with words.) It need not be.
What Clark advocates is making the journey the destination. She wants us to have real interactions with people, and work slowly to build long-term relationships not based on transactional thinking. The ultimate goal of networking, says Clark, "is to turn a brief encounter into a real, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationship."
So, yes, get out of the house, or email contacts if you prefer, but engage with people in a real way. Don't do it with the business benefits in mind, but do it because those benefits will come if you give of yourself and share what you have, trusting others will do the same.