How Twitter stuffed my blogging brain

A couple of weeks ago I composed a little tweet along the lines of ‘I used to be quite good about updating my blog. Then I discovered Twitter.’ One of my tweeting pals replied saying I should blog about this fact. I agreed and then proceeded to fail to write said blog for a silly number of days. Why? Because Twitter really has filling up the bit of my brain that compels me to write blog posts.

twitterTwitter is like and endless supply of mini snacks. A jumbo sack of 10p bags of crisps or a pic and mix of penny chews. A tweet is almost instantaneous. You don’t have to think about it for very long before firing it off (unless you’re about to wade into a spat or tricky discourse) and it takes no time at all to type it. Sometimes it does take a number of seconds to delete it down to the appropriate number of characters, but it’s still a very small time investment.

Blogging takes a little longer. A post will sit on your site rather than disappear down a timeline and it just straight up demands a little more in the way of words – and commitment. Also, blogging doesn’t seem to have quite the same addictive quality Twitter has. These days, I can go quite a while without thinking about blogging, but I seem to check my Twitter feed an awful lot. I don’t know why I’m surprised, crisps and penny chews have always been my downfall.

And then there’s the potential for instant feedback, which is so much more likely on Twitter, and feeds into that same writerly longing for confirmation when doing something alone that takes ages. It’s like the difference between writing a flash fiction you can sub in a number of days and a novel that will take you years. Which is more tempting when you’re in need of just a teeny wee ego boost? No question for lonely, affirmation seeking writers who happen to be drinking cold coffee and wearing a blanket.

So what am I saying? Basically Twitter has shown me that what I really want is distraction, conversation, attention and crisps.

A madcap recap and online vs. offline literary reviews

Life has felt rather un-linear in the last few weeks as I’ve been bouncing from one unusual event to another. The craziness is mainly rooted in my attempt to buy a flat with the help of the government’s shared equity scheme (so many crossed fingers) but it’s not been the only thing gobbling up my time.

Last weekend Ink, his writing partner, his writing partner’s actual partner, and myself took a trip down to Leeds for the Thought Bubble festival. It was fun seeing what everyone was up to and we got talking to some really interesting people. As always, I left feeling quite inspired, but the inspiration all went to waste as the next day I was on the plane to Bahrain to deliver a couple of days of training.

Travelling for work is never as fun or as glamorous as you’d like it to be, but I got to fly business class for the first (and probably last) time and on the last night we were given a short guided tour of some of the highlights – including a wander round the centre and its souks and some really amazing bars.

Bahrain, suk at centre of Bahrain

The trip took up pretty much the whole week and there was some frantic email checking during it, but I made it back safe and sound and in time to pop along to an event discussing literary reviews on- and offline at the MacDonald Road Library in Leith.

The discussion was quite lively – with writer and reviewer Stuart Kelly for print reviews, Rosy Barnes advocating blogs and Eve Harvey of Litopia mediating, and I could see valid points in both sides. I’m impressed by book reviewers as a general rule anyway, as I know I’d never be able to give a negative review to anyone for fear of hurting their feelings.

In a way, I think the argument is one that won’t last long as it looks like the majority of print reviews will be online one day in the near future anyway – the real questions in my opinion will be what quality signals people are looking for when reading book reviews and how the reviewers will monetize the process, if they decide to monetize at all.

I’ll always love paper, but all the new different ways of sharing stories online makes me hopeful about the future of literature in general – at least difficulties tend to inspire people to invent responses, I suppose.

So now I’m home and rather than thinking about books and their reviews I’m going to avoid the snow by getting back to reading some, David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten in next on my list, as soon as I finish the last few pages of Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain. Note, don’t read this on a plane when you’re getting close to landing if you want to avoid snuffling and red eyes in public.

How important is it to be likable on paper?

While scanning through Twitter the other day, I spied this line ‘the best way to get people to read your blog is to be likable’. I did not click the attached link, but someone I couldn’t forget the quote and the questions it raised for me. How do you know if you’re likable or not? Does that mean that if people don’t like your blog – or your writing – you’re not likable? What makes someone likable anyway? These are the kind of questions that put me off my Shreddies.

Writing is, in a strange way, a chance for me to not have to worry about being likeable for a while. Sure, I want people to like my stories – but I don’t need them to like me personally for me to feel good about that. Trying to be likeable is something I have to worry about quite often enough in the real world, writing is the chance to shuck off the responsibility and be as horrible or as conniving as I want to be – on paper anyway.

It’s nice to think that when you’re writing, your true self is hidden – even just a little (ok, so there’s the whole voice thing and idea you can’t escape getting some of your secret self on the page. But still) – and that while you’re behind the mask, the last thing you need to worry about is whether you’re coming across as likable.

Lynsey May all masked up

look how happy I am behind a mask

The other day, a kind person left me a comment saying that, having read a couple of my stories in The Stinging Fly, they couldn’t tell whether I was male or female or young or old and I thought – yes! I love the idea that you can’t tell what the person is like from the story, love it. Even if it means I’m not as likable as some of my characters might be.

Publish your blog on Kindle eh?

Well, and if I thought that Kindle might be about to miss a trick I was embarrassingly mistaken it seems. As Econsultancy reports, Amazon has recently launched a simple self publishing tool to help bloggers spread their word on Kindle.

Amazon will turn your blog feed into a Kindle suitable format and there you go – all you have to do is sign up for Kindle Publishing for Blogs. Oh, and pay the subscription fee of course. And the commission (70 per cent).

None the less, if they are hoping to ensure that Kindle continues to rocket – it seems they are at last going the right way about it.