When you hear the word “writer”, what do you think of?
Is it someone with a cup the size of a small barrel, sitting alone in a local coffee shop and scooping free Wi-Fi for their MacBook?
Is it a Walt Whitman type holed away in some tiny log cabin with a wood burning stove, some cigars, and enough scotch to make Keith Richards envious?
Or do you envision Jack Nicholson click-clacking away in the middle of a grand, empty resort slowly losing his mind?
“All work and no play…”
One thing is certain: there are times when it can be a lonely existence. If you’re not careful, the beating of the heart in the floor boards can get to you.
I have a theory that our friend Jack from The Shining could have easily avoided slipping into a murderous rage had he simply reached out to someone for a short talk and a cup of tea, or to bounce an idea off of, or to commiserate with. Hell, I’m pretty sure that a television hooked up to an Atari would have saved the day. It’s hard to imagine that much solitude in today’s world, what with all the devices and Internet.
Speaking of the Internet, I’m surprised that there are as many people writing as there are given that the Internet is mostly just a giant productivity suck hole. In the span of writing the first 250 words I have learned: all about the crocodile, Tick Tock, from the movie Peter Pan; that Atari had some awesome games; I am, and always will be, a Jack Nicholson fan; and that I spend too much time on the Internet.
But, one thing I have also learned, and I’m not sure I would have learned this before becoming a writer, is that the people on the Internet can be pretty amazing. People are the reason books have dedications at the front and acknowledgements at the end. I defy you to find a writer out there that says they did it all on their own. I just don’t think that person/unicorn exists.
Yes, there are lots of shitty people on the Internet. If you want to find one, look no further than the comments section of any web article even remotely mentioning something contentious. Anyone with any Internet experience at all knows that you never, ever, read the comments (this site and all its affiliated writers and websites excepted, of course). However, there are lots of really awesome people on the Internet as well, and if you’re a writer there’s a solid chance you don’t have the funds to just buy plane tickets to go see people face to face whenever you want. This is where the Internet community begins to shine.
I remember back in 2012 I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo and I was paranoid, terrified, anxious, and full of self-doubt. I had attempted my first NaNo in 2011 and failed miserably so I was determined to make this one count. So, I joined a NaNoWriMo group on Facebook. It quickly became a collection of random NaNo’ers from across the globe coalescing into one spot to share progress, cheer each other on, and generally support each other in our quest to 50,000 words. I won that year, and while there were other factors involved, the fact that I simply looked up from the keyboard from time to time to say hello to some other folks, or to ask their advice, or listen to their stories made a big difference.
By November 2013 I had seen the true value of Facebook writing communities and had become a member of several writing groups. I was writing more frequently and the quality of my work was improving. Most importantly, I was meeting a lot of interesting people and I couldn’t go more than a few hours without getting an idea. Creativity was at an all-time high. So, I decided that I would start my own NaNoWriMo group that year.
The Facebook group was home to several writers I knew from various other groups, and from Twitter, and the goal was an easy one: support each other in any way possible, and do you know what? It worked. So many people in that group made their 50,000 words – and then some – including myself. Little did I know that this would become such a pivotal moment in my writing career.
After NaNo we decided to keep the group going so we renamed it and made it “private”. Not that a public group can’t be a good thing, but in our case there was a lot of noise and too many people weren’t participating. A little writers’ support group was born. In the months that followed we have seen several of our 54 members publish their first book, several others add more books to their catalogue, and even more embark on writing journeys or create content that would have otherwise never seen the light of day.
In what can only be the Universe working in its strange and magical way, it is why I’m here today. Not physically here – alive and all that jazz – but here at OCH. Remember that pivotal moment I mentioned two paragraphs ago? Well it just so happens that OCH founder, Allie Burke, is in our little rag-tag group of wordsmiths (she and I share a crush on Chuck Wendig). She was looking for writers and I submitted a sample. Shortly thereafter I was accepted as a writer for this site.
Oh, and remember how I surpassed the target for the 2013 NaNoWriMo? Well after my acceptance to OCH I was told they were in the market for a serial fiction writer, and wouldn’t you know it? I dusted off the 2013 NaNo project and thought it would be a great start to a serial. Allie agreed, and you will all get to read it in the coming months. All because I decided that I didn’t want to end up like Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining and instead took a minute to introduce myself to some other humans.
Only you can put the words on the page, but doing that part alone that doesn’t mean you have to feel alone while you do it, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to be alone along the way. Reach out. Have a short talk and a cup of tea. I hear you can play Pong on the Internet.
Andrew F. Butters is a 40-something married father of two living in Cambridge, Ontario. He will tell you that his first published work was Losing Vern as part of the Orange Karen: A Tribute to a Warrior anthology but in reality it was a 500 word anecdote about how he accidentally lit himself on fire that made it into the third installment of the Darwin Awards books.
Fire is not the only foe for Andrew as he has received four severe concussions and four “minor” ones, the last coming in the summer of 2011. It goes without saying that he is totally on board with head protection and brain health. He also advocates for LGBTQ++ and is a firm believer in equal rights for all members of society.
Andrew sometimes lets his love of attention override common sense. Evidence of this can be found at http://potatochipmath.com.