Twitter: friend or foe for budding writers?
I used to work in advertising, but you wouldn't know it from my best attempts at social media since quitting my job to become a writer. I've been banging my head against this website template for days, wondering when I got so old, so inept, and if I've linked my domain or somehow deleted it, sending it to the depths of internet hell, never to be recovered. If you're reading this, by some miracle I did something right. I'll most likely never repeat that bit of random luck.
So I gave up my job to write a novel, something I've always longed to do. Somehow, after months of head spinning rejections I found a publisher willing to take a bet on me and my book. And then, I realised I needed to go back to work, albeit unpaid. I needed to drum up engagement, sell books. I needed to advertise, but I'd forgotten how.
You need to get on Twitter, they said. That's where all the creative types hang out. Not what I'd been lead to believe, but as I was fast discovering, I didn't know much about much, really. So I opened a Twitter account. And I waited to be trolled by Piers Morgan, appalled by Katie Hopkins, and ignored by sexy influencers with oodles of cool. To be fair, the third thing did and consistently continues to prove me correct on one assumption at least.
But the rest, not so much. We hear regularly about these digital spats and it's entirely forgivable to assume the Twitter landscape is a jungle, danger lurking behind ever hashtag, subtweets out to bite our ankles and leave us with a nasty rash, and - worst of all - people we don't like or agree with saying stuff we don't like or agree with. That happens, and as in real life, it's annoying but unavoidable.
Instead what I've discovered in this dense and over-populated jungle is a hidden oasis. The Writing Community. Or, to be precise #WritingCommunity. The hashtag is your ticket to this happy little gathering of budding writers, debut novelists, established authors, publishing professionals, and bloggers, reviewers and readers. They're lovely. Follow them and show an interest, chances are some will follow you back, and suddenly you're part of the club. They offer advice, support, and show you how to do Twitter properly, so that it becomes a map leading the way to inspiration, creativity, friendship, and insight.
And that's the thing I've discovered these last few tweeting months: Twitter is much like the real world, so avoid the places and people that make you unhappy and focus on your tribe, adding value to it as you grow, and taking from it what you need. It's a community, like any other. Just don't lose your way or you might accidentally bump into Nigel Farage shouting something about immigrants, and that would really spoil your day.