For more than a year now, I’ve had a post about twitter in mind. I was considering perhaps an explanation of what I find so appealing about it or a piece comparing/contrasting it with facebook. Yet, all that time, the wordless draft has been sitting on the server, alone and seemingly unloved, just like me at the fifth grade sock hop.
I just couldn’t bring myself to write the thing.
One might wonder, considering all the other nonsense I come up, Oompa Loompa references, terribly stick figure pictures, Seussian beer poems, weekly “debates” which are really nothing of the sort, and ridiculous rants about selfish women in Pepto Bismol colored shirts included, why I haven’t had the gumption to follow through yet. I mean, I’m the guy the goes off on 1000-word yarns about the worms that end up on the driveway after an evening rain having fallen from the hooves of invisible unicorns, so surely I could spit out a few paragraphs about twitter, right?
Hell, doesn’t damn near everybody has something to say about it anyway?
Granted, though, much of what I hear are complaints from people who obviously haven’t really given it a chance. Those people grump and moan that nobody really needs an FYI in 140 characters or less about Gramps having trouble with his corns or an update on Kim Kardashian apparently falling for some new guy, whom she plans to marry for roughly the same amount of time most of us suffer with a case of shingles.
While I won’t get into why those arguments suggest an incredibly simplistic, dismissive, and utterly wrong way to look at it, I will say that the power and utility of twitter is in who you follow, not who follows you. There’s an incredible width and depth of information out there, stuff that could be really useful to you. But if you’re only going to seethe over celebrities or count your followers, it’s no surprise that your experience was potentially lacking.
For the record, if proving your popularity is the most important thing in your mind, twitter probably isn’t the tool for you. Also, you might want to consider taking down that picture of you being totally awesome at the senior prom. That was like, a decade and a half ago, dude.
Anyway, the whole point of this is that every time I tried to sit down and do “the twitter post”, my brain locked up like a ’65 Chrysler in Wisconsin in February. It’s like I didn’t know where to begin, how to proceed, or where the post my lead. I felt like I was staring down the rabbit hole after Alice.
But I realized something just recently that helped me out a little with this post: if you’re a writer, you need to be using twitter.
You know, this is important. So I’m going to say it again, just for emphasis. If you are a writer, You. Should. Be. Using. twitter. And that’s especially the case if you harbor even the slightest inclination that someday you’d like to be a paid writer.
Why? Well, there’s a boatload of reasons, the least of which is that writing can be a difficult, solitary process. Writers put a lot of pressure on themselves and often have little outlet to release it. If you’re a insurance claims adjuster or something, odds are good you can wanders a few cubes over and find a sympathetic soul. But when it’s just you, the monitor, and the keyboard, and the voices in your head, well, let’s just say that’s not the world’s best psychological support team.
There’s a reason Jack took a left turn at Sanityville, hit the gas past Concern Junction, and drove head first through the walls of Crazytown in The Shining, you know.
But finding a conduit to your tribe is only part the reason why twitter rules for writers. The bigger thing, for me, at least, is that twitter is full of people that want to help you succeed as a word wrangler and, also, it has some sweet mechanisms built-in to make it happen. The hashtags (a word that lets you follow common themes easily) for writers alone are awesome.
For instance, late afternoon Wednesday, some literary agents found they had a bit of time to answer questions from writers using the hashtag “#askagent”. So anyone with a question that an agent might be able to answer just needed to type it up and add that tag and, if at all possible, they’d get an answer from the horses mouth.
And then, magic happened. Writers started asking questions. Then more writers piped up. And the available few agents answered them. And there were more questions and then even more questions and more and more agents joined in. Soon, the thing became a Q and A version of a great white freeding frenzy. It developed a life of it’s own, and, ultimately, lasted for hours. I’m not sure, but it might have even gone overnight in some parts of the world. Writers and agents, checking in and checking out of the stream, asking and answering questions about querying an agent or getting published.
The thing was an information goldmine, and I’m glad I had the good fortune to catch at least a small part of it.
So, yes, twitter can have it’s drawbacks. It might seem frivolous sometimes and the 140-character limit can feel, well, limiting. But it can also be a serious tool in the hands of someone willing to give it a little respect.
Because, let’s be honest, while being a lonely, pantsless, drunk is a pretty cool benefit to wordsmithery, finding your tribe out there – ready to give you a pat on the back or, conversely, a good chewing out if you need it – is priceless.
So, my fellow scribes, quite dawdling, and I’ll see you twitter.
Let me know where you are out there, and I’ll be sure to give you follow.
You’re welcome to do me the same.