Against my better judgment and all I have sworn over the past few years, I joined and really started to use Twitter. Lately, every guest speaker at our writers’ group has discussed the importance of one’s “platform” and that you can’t have a platform without Twitter. No platform = no agent, no publisher = no book. Unless you self-publish. In which case, no platform = no book sales. I’m so close to finishing my first novel and I want every opportunity to get it out there. So, I conceded the point and took to Twitter. The surprise is, I like it. I really, really like it. GASP.
I must confess that in the past I have decried Twitter as the tipping point of the end of the English language. What can you say in 140 characters and why would we as a society, and me as a writer, want to encourage the proliferation of text speak? Moreover, if Facebook is riddled with boring updates such as, “Going to the dentist” (complete with a Foursquare check-in), what sort of unholy mess awaited me on Twitter? Something like, “Clipping toenails” (complete with an Instagram photo)? Reluctantly, I held my nose and dove in.
But, guess what? There are real writers on Twitter. Tons of them! And I have never seen better, more beautiful uses of 140 characters in my life. (Yes, I do see plenty of boring stuff, but thankfully no toenail clipping.) There are funny writers, spiritual writers, dark writers. And, granted I’ve only been doing this a couple of weeks, but there appears to be a core community of people who want to support each other in writing, in finding an agent, in getting published, and in promoting one’s book. (Dear shameless self-promoters who do nothing but Tweet about your book 12 times a day, I am not talking to you. I am however, throwing you some shade. You will be taken up in another post.)
Moreover, you can get to know published authors in a way you otherwise wouldn’t unless you took a class from them. I spent a decent chunk of a morning conversing with Luis Alberto Urrea, whose The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Into the Beautiful North command a special place on my bookshelf. (If you haven’t read them, you are missing out on some of the most beautiful writing and most human characters.) And to my fangirl delight, he followed me back! (No pressure or anything.) Prior to Twitter, I would have been one of a hundred or two at a book signing, completely forgettable, and would have been shuffled along before I could even ask a second question.
There are also literary agents on there who, in addition to sharing humorous tidbits about their days, give you tips on how to query and how to edit. Worth its weight in gold. My Labor Day was greatly improved by the hashtag #askagent. A fellow writer, Fizzy Grrl, wrote an excellent post about the added bonus of connecting with agents as people on Twitter. She is 100% right (and funny, to boot). I have learned so much in my short time on Twitter and have a solid treasure trove of agent blogs cached. Bottom line, writers, you need to be on the Twit.
It has been great for me personally because I have managed to find several former Vox bloggers that I love and miss. But, the reunions, the hobnobbing with authors and agents, and the invaluable writing education, are only a part of the picture as to why I love Twitter.
In high school, I was one of those dark and moody kids (weren’t we all) who made fun of cheerleaders and pretty much loathed them. My attitude could be summed up by, “You’ve got spirit? Well, go f*ck yourself with it.” Granted, I had a lot going on – clinical depression, dad in the Gulf War, family falling apart. Not ideal times. Hell, I could have used a cheerleader of my own then. Of course, I probably would have punched her.
Turns out, yet again, I have become the very thing I mocked. Twenty years out of high school (should I go to the reunion?), I have become not just a cheerleader, but head cheerleader. Almost-40-year-old me is all pigtails, braces, and an extra side of spirit. See, I love to see people win. (Note: this does not apply to people who take advantage of or otherwise mistreat others.) The bigger the win, the happier I am. Perhaps this is all explained by some psychological flaw or by some New Age manifestation theory. I don’t really care. I like to cheer people on; love it, actually. And, with Twitter, I get to clap with glee every time someone lands an agent, publishes a book, or gets a great review.
It’s interesting because a professional colleague with slightly similar literary ambitions recently said that she would be willing to help me because we’re “not in direct competition” with each other. I see the world quite differently because I don’t see myself in direct competition with any other writer. The stories I have to tell in the voice I have to tell them in are solely my own. I may have similar story ideas as someone else, (after all, aren’t all the story ideas already in play), but the two resulting works could not be identical. It just isn’t possible. Perhaps that’s why I want to group hug and otherwise get my party on with the Tweeps.
The fact this moment of self-recognition and acknowledgement was made possible by Twitter both amuses and impresses me. But, it is reassuring to know that I have passed the age where petty jealousies snag my attention at every opportunity and that I legitimately am the kind, compassionate person I believe myself to be. Nothing like staring down the successes in others’ lives that you are hoping for yourself to show you where you stand.