Thursday, April 15, 2010

How I Became a #twitterfailure in a Few Easy Steps

Twitter. Just the hint of mention and the crowds go wild. Right now, on a computer/smart phone near you, Twitter is alive and pulsing with an enigmatic fusion of feistiness and connection. People are communicating with strangers over what matters most to them (or bashing the wives of notorious #husbandfails), and in the writing community, never-before-seen access between writers, agents, and editors is being carried on 140 characters at a time. Heck, even the U.S. Library of Congress is getting in on the action and recognizing what a resource Twitter is.


And I am not on the bus (said with a regretful sigh).


Oh, I have a Twitter account and even a little birdie on the side of my blog, but that’s like me buying the toe shoes to be a ballerina, but never actually putting them on (or paying for a membership to a gym that I rarely attend—Oh No! It’s a pattern!).


But I am a #twitterfailure and I’m here to explain why, and possibly search for suggestions on becoming a #twittersuccess or to be called out for my reasoning (just be gentle, okay?).


I know that Twitter is an amazing tool for writers. After all, my BFF hooked an agent’s interest in 140-word doses, which led the agent to her blog, to contact her, and to eventually, after catching a glimpse at her talent, offer her representation. And so the BFF/Awesome Agent love affair began through Twitter, so much like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building.


Some of my favorite authors (Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr to name a few) are active in the world of Twitter, which makes me even more angsty about not participating. But I’m not sure what’s to be done. So, let me make my case.


The number one reason I am a #twitterfailure will come as a shock to some and will make others fall over laughing.


1. I can’t think of anything to say. #twitterblock


Yes, I know. I write. Lots. Someone who writes, say, more than 1,247,692 words in two years, isn’t the person you’d think would run out of things to say. But it’s true. There is a big difference between being friendly with words in a fictional construct and having short, pithy things to say on Twitter (at least that’s my position). If I were contributing 140 characters to a story, I’d be there. But sharing things about my life, not so much.


2. The things I do have to say, I really don’t think anyone wants to hear. #livingglitzfree


This might come as a shock, but I don’t live a very glamorous life. I get up early, go to work, come home, fix dinner, play with dogs, write, and fill my remaining time with taking the dogs to the park, exercising, watching bull riding, marketing my writing, researching agents, writing blogs, spending time with friends, etc. So, #lessthanscintillatinglife leaves me with not much to share on Twitter. And I’m certainly not knocking my life here. I love my life and how I spend the hours I have, but I really don’t think the Twitter folk would want to hear about my stellar dog walks. (I’m just as bad on Facebook. I admire those with things to share... with the exception of all those Farmville requests, but I just don’t share much for the same reasons as with Twitter.)


3. I’m shy when it comes to talking about my writing journey, especially the details about rejections and such. #colormetweetshy


As much as I’ve come to love my blog, it is still really hard to share my writing struggles, and yet I’m very open about the personal scape occurring behind the scenes. I’m not a very guarded person about most things, and yet Twitter just makes me nervous. I don’t know who’s reading them or if I will accidentally overstep and bug someone. And rather than risk it, I’m silent.


4. I might just have some issues with talking to strangers. #strangerdanger


I absolutely love how much community exists online for writers. BFF #TwitterGoddess Debbie (who is the reason I warmed to blogs in the first place) has regaled me with inspiring tales about the wonder of the Twitter writing community and the offshoots like YAlitchat, but I just can’t seem to find my way through the landscape. I did try to do the YAlitchat on Twitter, but the frenetic pace and multiple, simultaneous conversation lines made my head just about explode. Debbie did advise obtaining the transcript and said I might find that more helpful. To me, it’s very much like aerobics class (which I do not attend so that no one is injured due to the I’m-a-step-behind frustration that inevitably ensues). The chats go by so fast that I just can’t catch up and, because of number 2, I am just going to sit there even though I’ve read most of the books they discuss, have significant opinions on YA topics like fantasy world-building, and yearn to discuss them with other people familiar and interested in them. I just don’t seem to know how to begin a dialogue with strangers. Blogs are different because blog writers share more, have time to share more, and I can feel as though I know them enough to comment (though I still have blog-commenting anxiety).


I can actually hear BFF Debbie right now. “Well, you need to just get over that.” She’s big with the tough love, and I’m grateful for it. More than anyone in my life, she’s made me question and subsequently break dark and broody patterns that were keeping me stuck. And I recognize, without blogs, my BFF and I would never have connected. So, power to blogs, but Twitter... picture Bambi on the ice (in early spring).


5. I’m going to throw this one in even though I can hear some of the rebuttals already. Time is a factor. #twittertimefail


I spend 40 hours a week on a computer for my job. I write daily, so add an hour or two (sometimes three or four) a night. I can’t tweet while I am at work. So that means, to give myself the time to get comfortable with the process and maybe connect with others enough to have a conversation, I would have to not walk the dogs, not go out and meet friends, or talk to my far-away friends on the phone. I’m a person who rolls my eyes (internally or externally if I’m feeling snarky) when people tell me what they don’t have time to do. I truly believe that if you really want to do something, you will find the time. And I guess that is where Twitter slips. As much as I feel like I’m missing out on a potentially productive and fun adventure, I just can’t let go of my away-from-computer activities in order to become a #twittersuccess. (And FYI, my phone is anything but smart.)


So, if you have some advice to share, I’d love to hear it. I wonder if there are other #twitterfailures out there and if they question that decision. And among the #twittersuccesses, I’d love to hear your secrets. How do you know what to say? How do you find time to participate (especially if you work a full-time job, too)? And, I guess, most importantly, how do you connect with only 140 characters at a time?


Quote for the Day from Charlie Chaplin


“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”

18 comments:

Allison said...

Just here to say I also am a Twitter Failure! Eeek! I signed up but that's as far as I've gotten really. I am however a Facebook junkie. Despite what you think you have lots of interesting things to share with others. I hear them everyday just via face to face conversations. However, in saying this I don't judge you. I just can't seem to jump on the little birdie band wagon either!

Valerie at City|Life|Eats said...

I am a #twitterfailure too, and a lot of your reasons resonated with mine. I tweet sporadically. Having a blackberry with ubertwitter has definitely helped me read more tweets, which in turn makes me want to participate.

I do not tweet much about the day to day, and most of the time, just tweet my own blog posts and retweet interesting stuff other people say - but once in a while i feel like tweeting something about my life, and i often am surprised by the warm reception. I should so it more often :)

I would say, start small, tweet your blog posts, and then go from there :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

BFF, here! Great post. And, I love your proper usage of hashtags. ;-)))

Seriously, Twitter is a social media tool and should be used at your own risk. Did I say that out loud? Sorry. I meant only if you choose it.

The "time" element is like anything - we make room for the things we want/have to do in life. Although I went kicking and screaming into heaven (aka, Twitter), I'm glad I made it before the Pearly Gates slammed behind me. (Not possible. Everyone is always welcome. Except spam bots - they get blocked. I hate spam bots.)

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman said...

Babe, I feel your pain. As the Twitter Pimp Angel, I have held the hand of so many to help them navigate the tweet storm that I wrote a blog about HOW to best work the twitterverse. Debbie is a prime example of excellent Twitter etiquette, but read this and learn more... http://tweetingwriters.blogspot.com/2010/02/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet.html But the most important thing is being patient. Followers will indeed become friends. Actually, some will become better friends than your real life friends. You know why? Because you have writing in common and a passion for words. Take my hand, and trust me. There's a pimp fedora in it for you ;)

Jemi Fraser said...

I use Twitter a bit, but usually only for the chats. My biggest problem is similar to a couple of yours - I'm not that interesting & I'm never quite sure what to say :)

Laura Marcella said...

I have a twitter account, but sometimes I don't remember to tweet. Famous people's tweets are so much more interesting than anything I have to say! I've never been on a photo shoot in Barbados or attended parties with Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, ha! When I can't think of anything to say, I tweet a quote. Inspirational, funny...everyone likes a good quote so I figured I can't go wrong there. You should go tweet your quote of the day right now!

Julie said...

Allison,

I think we need a Twitter failure support group! And I'm glad you find my daily ramblings interesting and that you have faith that others might as well. I'm going to try... some. :)

Julie said...

Valerie,

I think your advice is sound. Start slow... putting toes in the water and see what happens. If eaten by crocodile, then your advice was very, very bad. :)

Julie said...

Debbie,

The Twitter Goddess is here! The choir of angels is singing. Woo Hoo!

We totally agree on time prioritizing. I'm still trying to work out if Twitter can somehow fit into my life without shoving out other things I love to do. You know how I try to seize every moment with everything I am... to seize or not to seize Twitter, that is the question. :)

Julie said...

Jeanne,

That was a great blog post. Thanks! But I have to say I'm all aflutter thinking of just the right shade of purple for my pimp fedora... and the feather. Dreamy! ;)

Julie said...

Jemi,

I'm glad it's not just me. It's funny that we can write so many words about characters and journeys outside our lives, but maybe see our own triumphs/daily lives through a diminishing glass. I've been accused of this before... by a former rock star Twitter Goddess. I mean, you are a teacher, doing the most important job ever, a job that usually includes some really funny stories, I for one would love to hear. :)

Julie said...

Laura,

Thanks for the suggestion; I took it and tweeted my quote of the day last night. I felt daring. I felt like I knew what to do. I'm empowered to try... a baby step at a time.

Now, if I could just be at a dinner party with Gerard Butler life would be complete!

Thanks for the comment and I really liked your blog.

Liz Pezzali said...

Any failure is measured against expectations. Twitter is a tool and as such YOU decide what to make of it, based on who you are and love.

I'm no socialite either - I'm the mum of three - so I share pretty much of what you're saying. Still I find that twitter is potentially a fabulous means that can go right where your heart is taking you, beyond the borders of time and space into the land where reality and imagination touch ends and become a whole.

Follow and say what is meaningful for you, without any stress about "performance": I've got to say something cool, I've got to tweet a lot, I've got to "collect" loads of followers...

Of course you are more complex than 140 characters can tell but the value of words is not weighed in numbers and the good reader knows that ;-)

Kasie West said...

#TwitterFailuresUnite :) I know you're probably looking for excuses or advice on how to use it better, but I found myself nodding my head in understanding to each one of your numbers. I'm like a #TwitterStalker I find myself on there all the time, fingers hovering over the keyboard, poised to make a comment. But then I never do. It's sad really.

Tricia said...

My name is Tricia Sutton and I'm a Twitter failure.

Sure, I've seen it, but it might as well been in a different language for all I could make of it. I decided life is too short and tried aerobics instead. Shall I add we share one-step-behind aerobicsfail.

Julie said...

Liz,

Thanks for the beautiful comment and advice. And I'm endeavoring to take it. Tweet when I can and what I care about. Here's to a new adventure.

Julie said...

Kasie,

So, we share Twitter performance anxiety, too? I think we must be twins separated at birth. It could be true (as long as we ignore the age difference and the fact that you are slightly taller than my hobbit-ish self... I don't have the hairy feet, promise).

I'm trying to do better with Twitter and will let you know if I find the magic key... so far, I think really nice people guiding you along are the magic keys.

Julie said...

Hi Tricia Sutton,

Another support group member. Sigh. Less alone now. And aerobicsfail... you rock! I wonder if they did a study, would they find that different types of thinkers excel at Twitter and others don't? I tend to be a linear thinker, timelines, organization, and Twitter is very much a collage with rapidly moving conversations. I'm making an effort, but not sure yet if I will ever be not a failure at this. But I will say, I'm having some fun with it. :)