September 4th, 2012 / 11:30 am

Ways to Use Twitter

I’m relatively new to Twitter. I’ve only posted ~200 tweets. This compared to three people I follow: @blakebutler who has posted over 3,000 tweets or @matthewjsimmons who has +6,000 or @sophierosenblum who has ~9,000.

While I got my twitter account a long time ago, I never used it because I couldn’t figure out my approach. I mean, I couldn’t figure out how to use it in a way that seemed interesting to me.  Also, I couldn’t understand the protocols, all that R/T and # and @ this and that.  Nor did I understand the etiquette.  How many times a day is it okay to tweet?  Are you supposed to follow everyone who follows you?  And so on.  I felt like an old man confronting his inability to adapt to technology.

So, because I’m a nerd, I studied Twitter for a while.  I began to pick up on the etiquette and protocol, and what I  noticed was that the individuals I found most interesting had some kind of a angle.  For instance:

@AdamWPeterson tweets funny one liners.

@Kate_Durbin retweets celebrity tweets.

@markleidner does a kind of aphorism thing.

@VanessaPlace seems to be tweeting the entirety of Gone with the Wind.

And so on.

After a bit of trial and error, I think I’ve figured out my approach (@higgschrishiggs): I like to use Twitter as a way of sharing stuff I find interesting, rather than trying to be funny (which I am no good at) or expressing personal information (which I’m uninterested in doing).  I spend an awful lot of time scrounging around the internet like a antique hunter looking for awesome stuff. Once I find things, I like to share them with people.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if this translates to my approach to creative writing as well, since in my creative writing I tend to be less interested in communicating my ideas and more interested in showing people my word configurations — much the same way I like to show people the material I’ve discovered on the internet.  That’s a crude reduction, but I think there could be something to it.

Also makes me wonder…do others ponder their approach to Twitter?  And do others see a connection between their approach to Twitter and their approach to creative writing?



  1. rawbbie

      I think you missed a genre: the Horse_ebooks-like-complete-non-sense-that-makes-perfect-sense twitter feed.

  2. deadgod

      There’s definitely enough data to compose a copious-but-open-to-new-categories taxonomy of tweets.

      There are several commenters here who do well what Leidner is so good at: gnomicisms, usually pretty plain, sometimes jokey-thoughtful, often in the form – as I read them – of suggestions (Melissa Broder, Jimmy Chen, Lorian Long).

      There are plenty of straightforward humor (Dan Charnley is good) and humor-retweet feeds (@slayersays and @One_FineMess are funny).

      There’s a lot of politics, of course, from Tea Bedlamites to progressive voices (who criticize Obama’s moderate conservatism but can ‘tell the difference’ between it and Rove/Cheney).

      There are threads that call attention to enthusiasms (like Higgs’s); Kyle Minor supports books/writers that he cares about.

      One variation of enthusiasm is the day-book: direct quotations either from what one is reading right then or of something that one constantly returns to or was just reminded of. Bartlett’s, except put your name as anthologist.

      One possibility, either as a main mode or sprinkled in one’s expressions, is to use twitter to respond to other tweets. These are the feeds mostly in “conversation” with other tweeters.

      Some tweeters talk mostly of personal issues, made more or less general (and so more or less interesting to those who don’t know that person irl). Mike Meginnis talks interestingly of and from moments that come up in some way for most people.

      The variety that you see in writing generally is mirrored on twitter, no? –the formal constraint of 140 characters being the excluder of forms that don’t fit twitter. For example, one-liners, koans, hectoring: of course. But philosophical treatise and scientific investigation: not so much. Epic poetry actually comes in short units – verses – , limited in attention-holding only by the attentiveness of the auditor/reader (and the skill of the poet, of course). But novels are usually paragraphed, and that kind of prose unit-ing works against the grain of 140-character bites (though Place’s thing… why not?).

  3. Wallace Barker

      Interesting that people take twitter so seriously. It was always an option (and still is) to post FB updates in some kind of thoughtful way but it doesn’t seem like anyone cares much and FB tends to be haphazard friends and family ephemera.

      Are literary agents/professors encouraging writers to build twitter followings? Are twitter followings important? It has always seemed to me that twitter works best as a comedy platform and people who post jokes/witty observations do the best.

  4. Kent Johnson

      Someone should tweet the faits divers of Felix Feneon (Novels in Three Lines, trans. Luc Sante, NYRB). A fait a day. Get this book.

  5. Matthew Simmons

      I felt like I knew what I was doing. And then I felt like I didn’t. And then I felt like I adjusted. And then I felt like I knew what I was doing. And now I don’t know again.

  6. Daniel Bailey

      i prefer using twitter to post pictures of my ass

  7. Trey

      I really would like to tweet but I always default to facebook with what might be good tweets. I have an “audience” of established friends or associates or colleagues or whatever on facebook. I don’t know how to rebuild that on twitter (I guess people who tweet well just get followers? or if I was a more well-known writer I would get followers based on that?).

      sometimes I get ideas that I think would really only work or be funny on twitter, but I am too lazy or forgetful to execute on them. for example, I once baked a lasagna and then ate only lasagna until the entire lasagna was gone, because I am poor. This took like 6 days. after the whole lasagna was gone I realized I would have liked to tweet pictures of the lasagna as I ate it. in retrospect this doesn’t seem as funny as I thought it would have been at the time, but I maintain that it would be sort of funny.

  8. deadgod

      That’s not a bad idea. On twitter (or Facebook), it’d come off – to me, anyway – as a comment on broadcasting ephemera like ‘what I ate today’. In a way, unimportant to anybody else–but subtract the daily slices of lasagna for six consecutive days and there’s perilously less Trey left: trivial… yet vital. –that persistence is made of individually intermittently skippable steps.

      Pretty sure you can connect your Facebook page/correspondents to your twitter account, so, for starters, your Facebook acquaintances would know, if they were interested in twitter, that you communicated there, too. As long as you’re on Facebook and want to try tweeting, why not?

  9. isScottHammer

      great, great book. these are best read aloud, especially if you get can through pronouncing some of the more difficult french town names.

  10. isScottHammer

      great, great book. these are best read aloud, especially if you get can through pronouncing some of the more difficult french town names.

  11. Ken Baumann

      Look for @TejuCole. He’s working in Feneon’s style, writing small fates.

  12. Matthew Simmons

      i prefer using twitter to post pictures of daniel bailey’s ass

  13. Matthew Simmons