Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Request

I've been trying all day to think of humorous spin I could put on the story of this dude who deliberately shot himself to promote his book, but it disturbs me on so many levels that I can't think about it without feeling sick. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, or self-promoting, or taking a shot at any dream you have. Everyone has the right to pursue their dreams. Taking a shot at yourself because you think it's a nifty shortcut to fame/fortune/success, however, is not the way to get there.

Writing is a solitary art, and I've always been grateful to the internet for making it less lonely. When I was chasing my dreams I didn't have other writer people to hang with, so for me it's always been a privilege to be here. I practically witnessed the birth of the online writing community, from the first day I logged on to Prodigy and started reading the message boards back in '94. At the time I was too shy and scared to talk to anyone, but it still seemed like a miracle, to be able to read other writers' stuff and follow discussions and know that it wasn't just me doing this.

When digital self-publishing became available for free to anyone, I knew it would change the industry. I even made some predictions about it. I also saw this evolution/revolution dividing the writing community into separate camps, exactly as e-book publishing did when it joined the market twelve years ago, and that happened, too. Sometimes I get so disgusted with the name-callers and the snobbery and this "every writer for themselves" attitude that I start thinking everyone in the industry is like that, and I know they're not. You all have taught me that.

Reading the story about the guy who shot himself for self-promotion confused me. I thought to do something like that he must have no friends at all. Or if he does, he doesn't talk to them anymore. Or he got so caught up in this crazy idea that he cut himself off from everyone. I don't know. I'm a pretty solitary, independent soul, but even I can't wrap my head around it.

Anyway, because of this story I come to you today with a favor to ask. It's not a big one, and it will only cost you a few minutes of your time. When you have a chance, get in touch with someone else in the writing or reader community. It doesn't matter who it is; pick someone you know at random if you like. Send them an e-mail, drop a comment on their blog, Twitter them, Facebook them, whatever is convenient for you. And when you do this, try to share something positive. Tell them a joke. Recommend a great book you've just read. If you can't think of anything, ask how things are going with them. Basically, be their online friend.

For all the changes we're going through, we're not alone in this. We are a community, and we do care about each other, and sometimes I think we need to be reminded of that.


  1. Somebody actually SHOT themselves to get promo? Seriously?!
    But I'm with you in the web-wide support group. Hell, we all need it at one time or another.

  2. According to this article he did. What he did was criminal, and now that he's confessed he'll have to face the consequences, but it's the desperation behind the act that really got to me. How does someone reach that point, where this seems like the right thing to do? To get attention and promote a book? It's insane.

  3. Lynn--it's been over a year and a half, but there isn't a day that goes by when something doesn't remind me of your great kindness to me after our house fire. More than the care packages, it was the caring, the reaching out, the emotional support that you gave me at a time when I was so fragile I thought I would shatter. In some ways, that crisis turned into one of the greatest gifts in my life--it's when I understood that I wasn't alone. That I was surrounded and embraced by an entire community of people. It helped me realize that there is grace in both giving and receiving help, and that even the simplest of gestures can be enormously powerful.

    No, we are not alone.

  4. It is sad that someone would do something like this just to promote a book. And I can't see how he will ever be taken seriously as an author after this. I do hope that he gets some help for himself now, and faces the consequences of his choice.

    I am so thankful for all the talented authors who share their stories will others. You all definitely make life more enjoyable for all your readers.

  5. Lynn, thanks so much for this post. I'm so shocked and saddened about this man's desperation. Shooting yourself, I cannot imagine it. Heck, I cannot imagine getting a tattoo either: that's a needle! There's pain! There's blood! (Guess I'm showing my age here, LOL.)

    Thanks, too, for kicking my butt. Back in 2007, I wrote a short post on my blog about being Lonely at the Keyboard, which was basically a list of forums and chat rooms where someone could communicate immediately with other writers via the web.

    I wrote that post because I needed that list, and the post remains one of the top hits at my blog these five years later.

    I'm sad to say that it was only because of your post today that I went and checked those links. Geez. Most aren't any good any longer -though Writing Forums at Writer's Mag seems to be going strong - and I'm not sure what this means.

    As my contribution in response to your post, requesting that we all help build and support online friendships between writers, I'm going to surf around and find a new list of places on the web where there are writers chatting in real time, 24/7, or forums that close to that immediate feedback sort of thing.

    I hope there are lots more, because when you're stuck at 3 in the morning and feeling alone on the planet, having that web chat with other writers out there at 3 in the morning (or whatever timezone) who are also stuck (or not) can be a real Godsend.

    As always, Lynn, thank you so much for all that you do here. You're wonderful.

  6. As much as connecting with people through the internet can be hard, I'm so thankful for it, and people like you, Lynn. I'm very much a people person, and have loved working with people all my life, and being a write, as much as I love it, has been hard because it can be so solitary. It doesn't help that communications can often be misunderstood when done only in email or online chats as tone of voice and intentions can be unclear, what does help is knowing, and trusting that there are people out there with good hearts, and good intentions. People like you. Thanks for the reminder to stop lurking and speak up every now and then.

  7. I'll share a smile with you and your readers... (guys, keep in mind one thing... I'm a geek and my 80s-fu is strong.)

    hugs, lynn. love ya.

  8. Anne V.2:16 AM

    A good reminder. Makes me more grateful than ever for the Texas Mountain Trail Writers and for my critique group. They really encourage writing as a community!

  9. Oh my goodness! The poor man. I can't imagine how desperate he must have felt and for how long he must have been feeling that way.

    Thank you, Lynn. Big hugs to everyone.

  10. Good reminder indeed. I remember joining my first forum when I gave birth to my son. My husband thought I was crazy for chatting with people I didnt know. It ended up being one of the greatest things I ever did. It was a mommy's group and we all shared a due date. I maintained that friendship and went to meet ups, zoo trips and house parties with women who ended up being great friends and we all maintain the bond of sharing our pregnancies and the birth of our children