A newby in the twitterverse

Some thoughts on twitter, after having finally “got in the game” for the past fortnight.

I’ve had a twitter account for years, having set it up in a previous job to follow events in the crime and justice world. I didn’t tweet much (and didn’t log on at all for a couple of years): it’s fair to say I didn’t really “get it”. Seemed too much like lots of people shouting in a train carriage, with only those who already knew each other actually communicating. Then there was the sheer volume of information to process. Once you turn that tap of information on, how do you stop? How do you ever have time to follow all the interesting links? And then to actually read them? That’s before you get into all the time-sucking memes, virals, and never-ending cat videos. (Who doesn’t love a good cat video?)

So, I unplugged, retreating to the comfort and safety of Facebook, letting my friends filter out the fluff.

Some years on though, and I am trying to establish myself as a picture book writer. This requires specific industry knowledge, a network of contacts, plus application and (hopefully) ability on my part.

I have joined  a couple of groups on Facebook around this area, but have yet to fully engage. A lot of those within the groups obviously know each other, from conferences and critique groups, and being the new guy breaking into those conversations can be difficult. (I have heard good things about SCBWI, but cannot afford to join just yet – my wife has offered to pay for my membership as a birthday gift in the next few weeks though. Once I am on the inside, this will give me more confidence to engage more readily than my current lurker status.) At parties, my default is to hang around near the cakes and give off an air of “ready for small talk, please!”, without ever having the confidence to just jump right in and introduce myself… As it is in life, so it is on social media. Nevertheless, this is somewhere where it feels slightly easier on twitter than facebook – the format encourages a more open approach, to my mind.

By way of example, I have directly tweeted three “famous” writers / poets this week. (Maybe not all household name-famous, but they are famous to me, if you follow.) Only one did not respond at all. (I’m sure Michael Rosen was just busy…) I had a moment of tweet-banter with Philip Ardagh about his prodigious beard – it has its own agent, apparently. A joke that I’m sure he has made many times before, but shared specifically with me. No other media enables such small, personal links. Amazing, really.

I have mainly used twitter to tweet about this blog, and to advertise the poems contained here. It’s a little more “broadcast-y” than I would like, but the next level of contact will come.

(As an aside, it seems painfully inappropriate that the main hashtag I need to use is #kidslit … just yuck.)

Completely out of the blue, I had a message from a published author yesterday to say that she was really impressed with my poems, and looked forward to seeing me published one day… Wow. For someone who is not naturally self-confident, this was an amazing message to get, and I am sure that I will go back and re-read it whenever I need a pick-me-up in the coming months and years when the inevitable rejections come through. This also re-affirms my belief that the world is fundamentally a good place, filled with good people… who get easily sidetracked.

So, I am still not entirely sure I “get” twitter, but I’m learning by doing, even if the amount of “stuff” is still overwhelming. How does anyone find the time? And I’m trying to limit my consumption of cat videos. Life is all about sacrifices!

If anyone has any top tips about getting started on and using twitter, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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Author: Al Lane

Writer, Poet, Daydreamer

4 thoughts on “A newby in the twitterverse”

  1. Gah. The lengths you have to go to in order to ‘like’ or comment on a post on WordPress… Anyroadup, Twitter. Yes. I generally agree Al, it does seem full of ephemeral noise and I really, really can’t be bothered to enagage with it. The whole premise that you ‘follow’ someone and they ‘follow’ you seems weird and somehow uncomfortably close to parody (BRIAN: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals! CROWD: [in unison] Yes! We’re all individuals! TROLL: I’m not). It seems that to really get into Twitter you have to trade a chunk of your life (and a slice of your soul) or you fall behind in what’s hot and new and exciting. It’s a bit like being at a party, having a chat and a laugh, popping to the loo and coming back to find your mates have left, there’s a whole new group of people in the kitchen and the conversation is about something you don’t understand with some guy in a mask hurling abuse at your friend’s sister. I prefer Facebook. It’s less frantic, has more words and nice pictures. And before people say “yes, but Twitter has all that too” may I also add they are generally hidden behind indecipherable URLs, which I really can’t be arsed to click on (especially not with my broadband speed). However… your point about making new and interesting links to like-minded people WHO YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW is one huge big plus for anyone venturing into a new arena and, if I ever get my act together to get my guff published, I’ll probably resurrect my Twitter account too. With gritted teeth.

  2. SCBWI membership sounds like the perfect birthday present. Such a lovely and helpful group of people. Off to my first SCBWI conference at the end of this month – can’t wait!

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