I’m trying to be a better tweeter (is that what you call it?).
I’ve never been a big fan of twitter because it’s such an ADHD kind of social media. I never make it through more than a handful of tweets before I’ve followed some link to find out how to make Cranberry Glazed Meatballs and then been sidetracked by a crazy recipe on the sidebar about a cauliflower-cheese sauce that totally fools kids. By the time I get back to twitter there are “46 new tweets”! Now I’m days behind, so I slog through a few more, end up down the rabbit hole of Astros Horrible Howlers (your whole family will love these jokes!). By the time I get back to twitter there’s a message at the top that says, “While you were away…” followed by a fresh new batch of tweets. There is NO WAY anyone can keep up with twitter unless it’s her fulltime job. And even then it would be tough.
So I mostly avoid twitter because it’s impossible for me to even begin to stay on top of it. And more than that, it’s discouraging. I follow other writers who have thousands of followers and who follow nearly as many. How is that even possible? I can’t keep up with the 177 people I follow on twitter. How could I possibly follow 10K? That seems kind of insane and borders on the following for the sake of following. Mostly, it makes me wonder if anybody is even reading all those tweets. In which case, the vast majority of tweets are being sent out into the twittersphere never to be heard from again. All of this begs the question, if a person tweets and no one reads it, was it worth the agony of perfecting those 140 characters? I think not.
Assuming a writer wanted to create a large horde following her on twitter, just how does one get 10K followers, anyway? I googled, “How to get 10,000 followers on twitter.” There were lots of hits on those exact words. I guess everybody wants 10,000 followers.
I read three articles and by the end I came to the conclusion that Twitter is one big giant shell game. Everybody is out there scamming to get more followers. The trick is to get someone to follow someone and get them to follow you back and then use a service like manageflitter to unfollow these very same people, plus anyone who doesn’t already follow you back and anyone who hasn’t tweeted in the last three months. The goal being to have more people following you than you follow. Just like high school. You want to be popular but not look like you work at it.
After wasting an ENTIRE MORNING on figuring out how to get 10K followers, I was exhausted and annoyed. I could have been WRITING. Already, Twitter was wasting my time. So I’ve decided that I’ll be content with my 185 followers. These are quality people. I promise not to stack their twitter feeds with redundant links to stuff they’ve already seen ten tweets about. I’ll only write quality blather, complete with pictures (something I learned from the How to Get articles), and occasional self-promotional nonsense. Occasionally, very occasionally, so you’ll know they’re good ones, I’ll post a link.
I’m going for quality over quantity on my twitter. Yes, I realize this goes against everything that twitter stands for. I’m a rebel like that.
Shut Up and Let Me Write
When I tell people I’m a writer, they sometimes say – “That would be torture – just to sit and write all day.”
For me it would be torture not to write. Then I’d have to say all the things I think. Like today, EVERYONE is irritating me. But I can’t tell them this. I can’t say, “Stop talking. You are plucking my very last nerve and right now your voice is grating on my soul.” Instead, I write it. I can even post it and no one would even know that I was talking about them. They’d think I was talking about that other person.
Which brings me to another point. All these people who say they hate writing – these very same people are crafting clever 140 character declarations and anecdotes and narrations of their lives on Twitter. Do you know how hard it is to write something clever in 140 characters? Much easier to do it in 100,000 words.
Some mornings I can’t even speak to anyone until I get to my keyboard or my journal. I have to spew out all the chaos zooming around my brain so I can think clearly and be a nice person. If I write it down, I can let it go and I won’t say things like, “SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP! Go talk to the dog instead of me! You’re ruining everything!”
My husband works from home occasionally. When he walks in my office to offer to fix me a cup of tea and I’m in the middle of writing a scene or an essay, my blood boils. That is not the socially acceptable response to a thoughtful person offering to make you tea. I freeze, trying to hold my thought and speak to him at the same time. Usually I nod and pray that he will now SHUT UP and GO AWAY. I pray this silently which is probably a good thing for my marriage.
So maybe the writing is compulsive. Or maybe it is therapy. Or possibly it’s an addiction. I believe it makes me a nicer person. I believe it keeps me sane. I believe that without it I would have no friends and my children would have run away by now. My husband is generally more tolerant. I’ve learned this because he doesn’t SHUT UP AND GO AWAY even if I slip up and actually say that. I guess we’re meant for each other.
And Then What Happened?
And then what happened? That’s the question I keep asking. I’m working on my third novel and this is my favorite part. I’ve spent the summer getting to know the characters and two weeks ago I finally set them in motion. Now every day I sit down at the computer and ask, “And then what happened?”
It’s not a very scholarly approach, but it’s what works for me. I’ve got nothing against a good outline. Being a listmaker, I love organization. It just doesn’t work for me in my storytelling. If I’m following a map, it’s too predictable. Too paint-by-numberish.
Some days the muse takes me down an odd path that may not actually be a part of the novel. It might only be my distracted mind thinking about the tumble I took today while running with my overly nervous foster dog. It wasn’t his fault I know, but my skinned knee and hands still sting so I still kicked him out of my writing space today anyway. I hear him in the kitchen tearing apart a stuffed animal, but I keep writing. Next thing I know my characters is dealing with a dead animal. Probably not really part of the story line.
It’s not just in my current novel that I’m asking this question. Now I’m asking the question of my writing career. My first book is out. Everyone who reads it loves it. It gets some stellar reviews. We pop the champagne....and then what happens? Could it be a movie? Will my publisher sell the foreign rights? Could it wiggle its way onto a bestseller list? Unlikely for a first-time novelist. But it happens, right? A girl has to dream.
It’s hard to be patient. I know if I am and I let the story tell itself to me, the magic will happen in its own time and not mine.
Patience is powerful. Kids and animals have a way of reminding us of this truth. Toddlers and surly teenagers move slowly when given direct orders. My horses have taught me my timeline is not necessarily theirs through one too many unplanned meetings with the dirt. And my foster dogs remind me daily that if I’m patient, they’ll reveal the good dog underneath. Writing is one more life lesson in patience. It takes hours and hours and hours to tell a good tale, to find out what happens next.
My son interrupts my writing with a story of his day. My kids are growing up so fast. One just started college, one is learning to drive, and one, the one who is keeping me from writing today, he’s still willing to share his stories with me. So instead of hurrying him along, I close the laptop, turn to him, and ask, “And then what happened?”