Writing Life

A Twit Learns To Tweet

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Way back on Monday, April 25, 2011 at precisely 8:07 AM, I emailed Clay Morgan from He and I had established an “easy, breezy, beautiful” rapport; we’d talked on the phone a few times, and for a while, we were on the same cyber-page. But suddenly, Clay had a Twitter icon on his page. And I didn’t.

What the deuce? I thought. So I tapped out a quick note.

Dude, I seriously need to understand Twitter. I either need a 15 year-old girl. Or you. Can you call me?

Clay responded like a firefighter would to a burning building. He emailed me and assured me Twitter was “pretty intuitive” and that I could probably figure it out. He said he had faith in me.

Whaaaat? Twitter? Intuitive? To whom?

Clearly, he did not read this article.

We set up a time to talk.

Then I lost his phone number.

Still, I had every intention of making Twitter priority #1 on my list of Things To Do. (You know, after I got back from Florida. And all the grocery shopping was done. And I had unpacked and put the suitcases away and done all the laundry and scrubbed the baseboards and taken out the garbage and fed the animals.

(Note: We have no pets. Not even a goldfish. Not even an ant.)

I was a little bit horrified that I had so easily morphed into one of the typical student-types: the kid who pretends the deadline hasn’t come and gone, but never goes to talk to the teacher about it.

But Professor Morgan was onto me.

Clearly I was delaying. We set up a time to conference around noon.

After my massage.

(What? I have a long-standing back injury, people.)

On the day of our exciting teleconference, we started with the simple stuff.

Clay explained that, for a writer, the purpose of Twitter is to help network with other writers, to acquire followers, and to spread one’s writing around to other interested readers. He said Twitter can be a place to gather with my fellow writers, where I can find people to hold me accountable to achieve my writing goals, and where I can find people willing to critique my work.

That all sounded good.

He explained it also meant supporting and promoting the people whose writing I adore.

I heard “cheerleader.” I was a cheerleader in high school. I may have lost my splits, but I can still cheer. And if tweeting and re-tweeting my favorite writers’ stuff was going to help them, I could drink that Kool-Aid.

So Clay taught me the basics. About the Timeline. And how to check my Direct Message Box — to see if anyone has sent me a private message.

“How do I know that?”

Clay patiently explained.

He also told me I should always check Mentions to see if anyone has tweeted any of my posts and, if they have, that I should be absolutely certain to send that person a short thank-you.

“It’s Twit-tiquette,” Clay explained.

He taught me about how to set up a list of my most favorite bloggers. And while we were on the phone, I understood everything perfectly.

Clay was extremely patient and gracious. And then, like any good therapist smart person with outstanding time management skills, after one hour, he announced our session was up.


“I haven’t mastered this yet!” I whined.

He assured me that I’d figure it out if I played around with it a bit.

I thanked Clay for “eduClayting” me, and I messed around on Twitter for a while.

I tried to send messages to the people I knew best.

Eventually, I got a response from Clay himself.

Whaaaaat? I was sending messages to myself? Awk.Ward.

I tried to figure out that mess. And I set out again.

This time I heard back from Leanne Shirtliffe aka: Ironic Mom.

After a few weeks, I saw I got my first retweet! And then I got a RT from Mark Kaplowitz, someone whose writing I really like:

And then that started to happen more and more.

Eventually, I figured out the secret language of hashtags: the weird letters that come after the numbers’ symbol (#). Like #MyWana. Or #IYKWIM. For a while, I felt like I sitting alone at a table in the middle school cafeteria, and everyone knew everyone else and everyone knew what they were doing – everyone except me. But then I learned that you can Google these letters after the number symbol and find out the inside joke. And boom, I was instantly sitting at the cool kids’ table because I was speaking the same language.

And guess what, writer tweeps are a lot nicer than the mean girls in middle school.

The big moment came when author Kristen Lamb sent me a tweet. I would post it, but it’s kind of like looking into the sun. Too much truth. Your pupils might burn, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

These days, I have myself on a strict Twitter diet. I check in three times a week,  spend 15 minutes responding to people, sending thank-yous, and trying to connect with one new person. I literally set a timer. It is really easy for Twitter to become a time suck.

Alas, now that all this time has passed, I don’t remember how to add people to that list Clay helped me to create. Also, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that list. I think it was supposed to save me time somehow. I’m not really sure. So that’s not great.

I told Clay that I was going to write a blog about how much he helped me.

I estimated that I would have that post written by late August.

So I’m a little ahead of schedule.

But I really need to work on my fall curriculum. And my book.

You remember, my book?

The thing that started all of this…


It’s calling me.

Gotta run.

Do you use Twitter? If so, who taught you? And what do you get out of it? Any funny stories about stuff that has happened to you while you were learning to tweet? What are your Twitter woes?

Tweet This Twit @RASJacobson

32 thoughts on “A Twit Learns To Tweet

  1. I’ve been on Twitter for a week and still really have no idea what I’m doing. I like it because it’s easy to throw out the one-liners I tend to throw out anyway, but it’s odd because of the timing. It’s a constant real-time conversation and sometimes hard to get a word in edgewise. Sometimes it feels like everyone’s just talking over each other and if you’re not there at the exact right time, what you say is lost. *Shrug* So it goes…

    I only have a few followers and I should learn how to really “use” it, but right now I don’t really have the time between work and actually trying to write myself. However, it’s been a fun experiment! I’ll need to reread this post again this weekend and take notes (in 140 character or less, of course.)

    1. Abby:

      The best advice I have read about Twitter comes from Kristin Lamb. She has Twitter Tuesdays. I really recommend you go and just read her archives. She lays it out and suddenly it’s like *smacks head* “Ohhhhhhh! I get it now!”

      Honestly, Twitter is less about throwing out those one-liners than it is trying to network and support other writers’ work that you like. That’s how you develop a following. It’s the same way you would make friends, right? You don’t just talk all about yourself or no one would want to be your friend? But if you try to connect with one new person each day — really read one new blog and get that person to follow you back, well then that person starts tweeting your stuff. Your readership will really grow exponentially. And then you’ll have the Twitter followers who will appreciated your one-liners. At one week, it’s about connecting with other folks. Save the one-liners for later.

      1. Thanks. That makes sense. I guess for me, I see people using it for all different reasons. A lot of people I “follow” are necessarily writers, so they have a different reason for Tweeting. I guess I have to figure out what I am using it for and adjust my behavior for each group.

        I’m not on there to self-promote, but rather just to be social 🙂

  2. I got off face book because it became an hour by hour report on the daily lives of the wives in my 100 member network. I don’t care if little Timothy got a haircut or want to see another picture of your dopey stinkin cat. I’m flooded with 300 emails a day. NO MORE. Some published authors that want to help me get my cartoons showcased suggested involvement with something to do with Abraham Lincoln and now this twitter thing. Just interacting on my blog and those of others and a dozen personal emails take up at least 3 hours of my day. Jakes do you mean you can handle even more?

    1. Carl, sometimes when I see one of your cartoons that I LOVE, I tweet it. I would recommend you put a tweet button on your blog — so even if you aren’t on Twitter, others might tweet your stuff which can get other folks to come and check it out. You’d be amazed at how tweeting to the right people can drive traffic to your blog.

      Yes, there are the people who chitter chatter about blather. But I have found a bunch of people with whom I can network and get support. For example, if I didn’t know how to create a HYPERLINK (hint hint) I could go to Twitter and ask: “Can someone explain how to link my WP blog to someone else’s page as a hyperlink?” and a bunch of people will run to your rescue. It is very handy for things like that.

      But you could also use it to network. You could meet tons of cartoonists who blog just by using the hashtag #cartoon or #illustrator. That filters out some of the noise. That said, it is not for everyone.

      I only go on 3x a week for 15 minutes. But I do tweet blogs as I read them — if they are fabulous! 😉

  3. Ha, way to go. Glad you’re ahead of schedule. That phone call was in, what, 1986? In Twitter time April was decades ago. But yes, Twitter folk are much nicer than middle school girls, and it’s a great way to start conversations too.

    And I’m not going to even mention TweetDeck.

    1. Clay:

      Will my brain explode if I try Tweet Deck? I’m guessing yes.

      I opened it up and practically died. It looked like Star Trek’s command control, with those three panels of confusion.

      I think Keenie Beenie said she would be willing to school me. Don’t tell her what a twit I am.

  4. I just started using twitter a couple of days ago. I resisted for ages (like I did with myspace, facebook, and playstation). Actually, work just bought me a sweet new smart phone with unlimited internet so…..

    I still don’t know how to do anything, nor do I have any followers. I’m not really surprised. I had wanted to link one of my blog posts, but completely forgot to include the link, so I think I came off sounding like a whiny little 12 year old, spoiled rotten kid.

  5. Oh, Renee, I feel like the Twitter bird whispered this post in your ear just for me! I haven’t been tweeting for very long, and frankly, I don’t know the ins and outs of it like I should. This was really helpful! 🙂 You have no idea how excited I am to know what hashtags are. I feel like the theatre geek who just got invited to sit at the cheerleaders’ table!

    1. Hi Sprinkles:
      There are tons of great hashtags to use if you are a writer #amwriting, #writer, #MyWana (which hooks you in to Kristen Lamb’s group. Even silly ones, like #IYKWIM (short for if you know what I mean) — which is a real space saver when you only have 140 characters! 😉

  6. —-Renee,
    Great Post.
    I am just getting into the whole “Twitter World.”
    I loooooooooove it.
    Another obsession of Networking.
    I think Twitter/ Tweeting will transform the Universe.
    I shall tweet this blog immediatley.

    1. Hello @LShirtliffe: I know, not yet had a single marathon conversation had yet taken place. And of course we connected. We were already connected. But now we are MORE connected, #IYKWIM. ANd I’m not talking about Words With Friends.

      And, of course, @ClayMorganPA is awesome. No duh! 😉

  7. Aha! This post gives me an idea on when to expect to provide your crash course on Tweetdeck. Um… later… sometime. 🙂

    Seriously though, I could learn something from your lessons for a Twitter newbie.

    The twitter diet is a good idea… and I still need to get some lists sorted out. I know how to do it, but I’ll get around to it when I’ve unpacked and put the suitcases away and done all the laundry and scrubbed the baseboards and taken out the garbage and fed the animals… you get the picture.

    1. Hi Keenie Beanie:

      So are you really going to teach me about the Tweet Deck? (*she said excitedly*) Because you know I’m going to blog about it.

      But first, let me apologize in advance. You know, because I’m a little bit hapless. 😉

    1. Hi Liz! I KNOW that Clay will help you — but he’s working on that proposal, so you’d have to put in a request for a time. He’s a very good teacher. And I’ll bet you are a much less confuzzled student.

      Seriously, I still don’t know how to make lists. It’s kind of a disaster. 😉

  8. When you figure out TweetDeck, can you then teach me? 🙂 I’m trying it out more often but it’s still just weird. I held out for a long time, but then finally joined Twitter. It’s not so bad. Better than I had thought before I joined.

    1. Limr: I agree with you wholeheartedly. I feel good about my “diet” — I can’t be one of those all day tweeters. But that TweetDeck has me terrified. I think I’ve tricked Keenie Beanie into giving me my next Twitter class. Maybe I should Google it first, so I don’t look like a total dunce. I’m sure there is some kind of Tutorial on it.

      Truth be told, my favorite part about Twitter is how I get to tell everyone when I’ve read something wonderful! I always feel like I’m passing on the title of a really good book!

  9. I get quite a bit of my news via Twitter, but I haven’t steamed into it full on yet. I suppose I fear what Carl worries about – endless distraction.
    But it’s good to have an instant way to support and disseminate good stuff that you like.

  10. Hmm – I suppose I should have added my obscure non-matching Twitter identity to that last comment.
    It’s @villageip
    Must get the hang of this networking and convergence some day.

  11. I’ve sort of been on Twitter for about as long as I’ve been blogging about writing, books, etc. I ‘fess up to treating it as a means to an end – set up to auto-tweet my blog, books shelf and photo-journal posts (same for FB and LinkedIn). Reading your post I realize I’m missing out on a great vehicle for connecting with other writers. I better block out some time to get a better handle on this writer’s resource. Gonna retweet this. THANKS!

    1. Ricky:

      You mean you are terrified of Facebook? Will you be my doppelganger on Twitter? Like take over my account and get me some followers. I am so not good at it. In my mind, twitter is for people who are fast-funny. I have to think about stuff for like 20 minutes before I get something funny. That’s about twenty years in Twitter-time.

  12. I’m so glad to hear you are on a twitter diet because I was feeling extremely guilty about mine! I’ve been terrible about tweeting lately. I love connecting with everyone. I need to establish more of a schedule/time limit.

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