Monthly Archives: February 2014

FFS! WTF has happened to acronyms?

Acronyms are extremely useful things aren’t they?

I mean if I had to actually say Planning, Preparation and Assessment time instead of PPA every time I said it, well then I’d probably spend most of my 10% PPA time saying Planning, Preparation and Assessment time rather than doing it.

In British education, in fact in any profession, acronyms are used a lot: SEN, P.E, R.E, D.T  ICT, LEA, OfStEd, (the ‘of’ part pronounced ‘off’ oddly enough)  APP, SATs, GCSE, CPD and don’t even get me started on what the education department call themselves anymore because they’ve gone from the DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) to DfES (Department for Education and Skills) to DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) to DfE (Department for Education) and there have been many more off shoots of governmental departments dealing in education. This all in the space of about 13 years – so secure successive administrations have been in their focus and vision.

However I digress. There’s nothing worse than a professional person dropping acronyms all over the place in conversation wouldn’t you agree? There’s been many a time when my mum has sat talking in NHS acronyms (NHS being the National Health Service for my readers abroad) and I’ve had to sit and ask her to clarify what the heck she’s going on about.

Another example of the ambiguity of acronyms being a mild irritation came about when I was at university around 20 years ago. Now we all know S.W.A.K on the back of an envelope means Sealed With A Kiss, but what does S.A.G on the back of one mean? Well when I was at university this is exactly what my best friend (BF) use to write on the back when she would write letters to me. (Calling all you kids out there: writing letters is this thing us old thirty something pluses used to do before mobile phones and Facebook were invented. We actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote conversations down. Then we would post them and sometimes have to wait a week, or even two, before we “spoke” to our best friend again. Can you imagine?! Of course you can’t. Anymore than I can imagine having to dial a switchboard operator before being put through to the person I wish to speak to. And yes – of course there were phones, but do you know how much it cost to call then on a university publicly used land-line or how quickly your phone card would run out of credit?) 

So we wrote letters and she wrote SAG on the back of mine. And of course I had to ask what it meant. (No, I didn’t ask her WTF? That’s just rude.) Apparently, it stands for Saint Anthony’s Guide. This originating off the back of the story about a miracle letter being received by a Spanish wife from her merchant sailor husband. It is believed St Anthony will guide your letters safely to their destination. So I learnt something new. Useless but new.

However, once more I digress. As I say acronyms are helpful and useful and save a lot of time both in speaking and writing provided you know what they stand for of course. So I have no gripe with them… generally.

But in recent years the acronym to me seems to have evolved. No longer to be used as a handy initialisation of a company or job title but instead to break down the need to say actual words or convey emotion.

It started I guess with personal lonely hearts advertisements. You know the ones where people describe themselves as having a GSOH (good sense of humour) who WLTM (would like to meet)  a solvent (??)  NS (Non-smoker). A need to be concise, whilst at the same time conveying a great deal of information, made the use of acronyms a necessity.

The explosion of texting and social media, in particular Twitter, it seems has a lot to answer for on this issue too. 140 characters necessitates brevity but this is not true on other social media platforms yet where the use of modern acronyms seems rife. I understand the need to say RT instead of re-tweet on Twitter or even to use BTW (by the way) or IMO (in my opinion). I understand the use of an emoticon to show how you’re feeling. What I don’t understand is some of the lingo which has evolved which, in my opinion, is just not accurate or necessary.

Acrimonious Acronyms

Allow me to explain my acrimonious relationship with some modern acronyms, and what are, in effect, my pet hates (in no special order).

1) WTF? (And FFS): When did we start actually saying What the Fuck and For Fuck’s sake anyway? Does using an acronym make it more acceptable to swear? I don’t know (I mean IDK). Perhaps it does. This is not by any means my biggest acronym peeve though. But I hope you can appreciate  that me writing the actual words seems vulgar. The acronym on the other hand makes my swearing more acceptable. Or does it? We’ve (and by this I mean the royal we) have started speaking in these acronyms too. You hear people actually say FFS or WTF rather than the words. It’s weird.

2) LOL: Now, years ago LOL stood for Lots of Love. But it seems to have evolved to mean Laugh(ing) Out Loud. Fine. Not a problem. Good written indication you find something someone said funny. If you like that sort of thing. However, and this is my bug bear. People writing it ALL. THE. TIME. Even when they are not actually laughing out loud, FFS! I mean, be honest: How often as an adult does actual ‘LOLing’ happen? If you are not ‘LOLing’ don’t write it as though you are. And then there are those people who write it at the end of a status update thus:  “Went to the shops; tripped up over my own feet. LOL!” Erm.. you really were not laughing out loud were you? Then, even worse than that is nowadays people have taken to actually saying LOL instead of actually laughing. Erm…what happened to the human ability to participate in the physical act of laughing out loud? Or why is there now a need to attach the phrase LOL on the end of a real laugh as though the listener could not understand that which you have just done? Was the raucous sound of a great big belly laugh, the throwing back of your head, the creasing of your crows feet around your eyes and the opening of your mouth not clue enough? (Perhaps I do have an order of vitriol after all.)

3) OMG: Oh OMG I forgot the exclamation mark! OMG! It so happens I was bought up to not say Oh My God as it was/is considered blasphemous. Now a non- believer, saying it would be even more strange because I don’t have a god. So to exclaim something to my God would be most queer. Oddly enough, the large majority of people who use this acronym don’t believe in God either. So I wish everyone would stop saying it and writing it. Also I can only ever hear a bubblegum teen American accent when anyone says or writes it which is just irritating to my brain. I admit I  often say Oh my goodness, or oh goodness or even oh my. However, I try my utmost not to say Oh my God, though it does slip in but saying  OMG as in saying the acronym? To my mind it’s just horrible. Please people stop it.

4) LMAO(Laughing my ass off): Now, you’re not are you? Be honest. Your ass is not falling off when you laugh. This is all I have to say on this one. LMFAO is even worse because a fat ass would be much harder to laugh off, both metaphorically and physically I’d imagine.

5) ROTFL. No again, you are not rolling on the floor laughing. You are typing. You are not rolling around on the floor like a puppy dog (just an image I get when I see this one) Get up and go back to just using LOL. At least it’s more believable you could be doing that rather than pretending to be an extra in an Andrex loo roll advert.

6) ROTFLMFAO:  FFS! You just combined the two and made the acronym longer than the words themselves or indeed the amount of time it would take you to complete the action of rolling on the floor laughing your fat ass off. If your ass is so fat I guess you’re going to be down there a long time. Certainly you’re not going to get to your device to type it.

7) And finally, my all time most hated modern acronym. PMSL. ‘Pissing’ is such a horrible word. It conjures up images of incontinent geriatrics who have really poor inadequate day care nurses who aren’t looking after them properly. In all fairness it is indeed possible to wet yourself when laughing, especially if you do suffer from incontinence, unlike laughing your ass off, which is not possible. However again when you are typing it, you’re not actually doing it are you? If you are, then I recommend getting off that computer pronto and changing your underwear, instead of continuing to engage in the oh so hilarious conversation you are evidently having.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not at all against acronyms. In fact I do like most and see a need for them, even some of the new ones. They fascinate me in many ways. The trouble is it all seems to have just gone a bit too far and there are just some I cannot stand. (See above if you’ve skipped past the rant.) We have even reached a point where some now have multiple meanings. How long before we are all talking gobbledygook in a series of letters we just don’t understand?

Ah well: welcome to the English language people.

Thank you for reading my opinionated rant. Feel free to add yours to the comments box below. 🙂

A quick quiz 

How many of these popular acronyms do you know? (answers on an old fashioned postcard to a non-existent address) I knew very few of them until about 6 months ago!

IRL

BFF

IMHO

XOXO

FTW

DM

TMI

BTW

FWB

IDST (This a trick one because what it used to be is seemingly no more what it is.)

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Filed under First post, Writing

A Place Where I Belong (Part 2)

In which I  introduce a cast of 140 characters, contradict myself just as many times and realise Twitter is on a mission to make me a hermit.
‘Typical me, typical me, typical me,
I started something…
And now I’m not too sure.’

Where were we?

Oh yes.  So it was the training day.  I’d jumped into the Twittersphere and I’d completed the awkward round robin AA style introductions. I’d got as far as the coffee break and summoned the courage to actually speak to someone and find some common ground with a couple of others.

Yes, I actually got to that point on Twitter and all was going quite swimmingly. I flitted in and out of the odd conversation and re-tweeted some stuff. It was nice to have a few friendly faces about so as I didn’t have to sit in the corner all alone, head down. desperately scribbling into my notepad.

I ended Part 1 of this post saying I’d found a place in Twitter where I belong. I mean this quite honestly in that it took me until I was around 17 initially in ‘real life’ to find a group of people I felt I fitted in with. School, until 16 at least, was hell on earth. Once in the sixth form I found a great group to hang out with. However, of course you grow up, grow apart and consequently I have spent most of my 20’s and 30’s, especially my 30’s, trying to find people with whom I have common ground .

I’ll be there for you.

But now I have a problem. A big problem. And that is I am finding that I am growing increasingly reclusive and relying more on Twitter for the stimulating conversation and common ground I crave from others.

This is not healthy. I know it’s not. However, when there are a cast of characters so witty, clever  and engaging as the people I’ve met on Twitter, it’s been hard to break back into real life. It’s doubly easy to depend on Twitter when your social life has all but ground to a dribble on account of becoming  sole carer for a 5 year old. I have to stay in at night anyway now. As a result, my friendships and social life have been in what I’d term a transitory period for the last two years.

Unsurprisingly, in line with this change in my circumstances, my time on Twitter has evolved beyond recognition from those early days I spoke of in Part 1 for on Twitter I have actually found some friends. These may be people whom I have never met, yet I would definitely consider some of them friends. I know very little about most of them, but I find myself caring about them and checking in on them most days as they do me. This to me is weird but I’m more grateful than they will know having recently lost one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had. I thought the friendship would transcend all difficulties. A person who understood my social misfit ways and with whom I’d found complete understanding with and whose company I enjoyed above all others. Ultimately something (someone) else got in the way of it and the loss has been no easier to endure than if they’d died. But luckily my increased interaction on Twitter happened to coincide with this loss and the people I’ve met have helped me through no end. Not because they listen to me whine and whinge constantly about my issues (though I know they would if I asked, and some have on occasion,) but more because, when I’m feeling at my lowest ebb, I can rely on opening up the laptop or the phone in the middle of the night and there will be someone there to take my mind away from how I’m feeling – to make me smile or to laugh. I don’t really get this in real lif’ and now I’m worried lately I’ve become too dependent on my ‘tweeps’ (yeah, like a year ago I’d even have known that term existed!).

Time to hide out in my cave?

But of course, social interaction is social interaction and I find myself with the same paranoia and fears on Twitter as I burden myself with in ‘real’ life.  Like in my real life, I often worry I will offend. I worry I’m intrusive and too chatty and people will grow bored of me as often seems to happen in real life.  I worry I will become over-bearing with my incessant chatter and verbosity (though in all fairness my Twitter bio does point out I am indeed a chatterbox! Follow at your peril) I only am this way though if there is something interesting to talk about. Sadly, I don’t find often the conversation in reality is very often stimulating enough. Unless you count chatting about the latest offers at the nail salon stimulating. I don’t. Ho hum. However on Twitter there are countless conversations taking place at any one time and of course there are simply more people to drop in on and chat with. Similarly if one doesn’t fancy chatting, there are no forced expectations to do so.

Getting to Know You.

In Part 1, I celebrated the wonder of Twitter and I do truly find it wonderful, even if it is taking my life away from me! Particularly wonderful are the writing community there.

I have been trying to rack my brains as to how I  got to chatting to most of the people I chat to and I can recall a few specific examples but in general it usually goes along these lines:

1) A person responds to one of my tweets. This was rare in the early days, but now this happens quite often and when it does, I will always respond and this can lead to further conversations. It doesn’t happen every time, but that’s okay. I ‘m not everybody’s cup of tea.

2) I respond to someone else’s tweets. (And no they don’t always respond  back, but I don’t take it personally.) I have got better at this. I have got better at opening up or dipping in to conversation, (though I’m still more likely to wait for someone to chat to me.) I don’t always find opening conversations easy either online or in real life. Maintaining conversations is even more  exhausting, other than with a very special few. I need high mental stimulation. If I don’t get this from a conversation I get bored, so if I do drop out…well now you know one reason why. I do have quite a short attention span. And I’m fully aware this can make me appear rude. I’m not, I don’t mean to be, I am just very demanding where conversation is concerned. Small talk bores me. The small talk most women I know in the ‘real’ world engage in bores me above all else. I know this is my problem not theirs.  I know this is why I don’t have many friends. But on Twitter I have found people who are interesting and clever and can maintain a high level of intellectual conversation. (Which I might add does not revolve around teaching either.)

3) Another way I met one of my best Tweeps was when another recommended me to read his book. I did. Then we got chatting about accents, REM and The Smiths. Get me chatting about awesome bands and well,  the rest as they say is history.

4) Another great way I have found fellow interactees is via comments on my blogs or via me reading other’s blogs.  Since discovering #MondayBlogs – the brainchild of the fantastic Rachel Thompson (@rachelintheoc ) the number of people visiting my blog has increased a lot. I think this has helped people get to know me better than Twitter alone might allow. I could be wrong but I know it has certainly led me to tweeting more with others on there once I’ve read their blogs. So yeah, blogs are a good way in.

5) Doing the old hashtag thing has got me tweeting with people too, but these have usually been fleeting Twitter relationships. Some endure. Some don’t. But they are a way into conversation and interaction.

6) Another major way I’ve got interacting with others though is simply from others dropping in to a conversation. Sometimes it can seem obtrusive when someone does that, and I’m always careful if I do it to ask first hand whether it’s okay. But mostly the Tweeps who have done that with my conversations have all being great to interact with. The internet (world) is full of weirdos I believe, but thankfully I’ve come across very few so far!

7) However the one thing above all else which has led to me having such a great writerly support group is the phenomenon that is Friday Phrases, as mentioned in my last entry.  Set up by the wonderful Amy Good (@amicgood), writers tweet short stories, poems and the like in under 140 characters with the hastag FP attached and this is how I’ve met some great people. Simply by retweeting and commenting on their phrases. Many have been kind enough to do the same and through it, I feel like finally I have found a group of people who are just there simply to be as supportive as possible to other writers and understand this thing we’re all doing so completely.

So I’ve found all these great people. I cannot actually believe I have over 600 people following me. How bloody bizarre is that? Over 600 total strangers (and that’s nothing apparently by Twitter standards). When it got to 200 I got scared. I’m also scared to follow too many for fear of not been able to keep up with everyone! Although, saying that I have lists which help me to keep up with the people I interact with most. So er…if you think I’m stalking you, yes I probably am! 😉 Anyway the numbers thing… hmmmm I have some views.

‘Are you following me, ‘cos I’m following you?’

I’ve never been a quantity over quality kind of person. (Strange, you might say, for one so verbose!) I don’t befriend every person I meet on the street so why should I do it on social media? I didn’t do it on Facebook. In fact I often get friend requests I ignore. These are usually from work colleagues but I have a strict rule about mixing work/pleasure these days. They probably get offended, but I figure that’s their problem more than mine. For me it’s the same on Twitter. I don’t seek to get as many followers as I possibly can or follow millions of people. I work on recommendation or if someone follows me, I check out their bio and if I feel they are interesting enough, seem likely to interact, then they get a follow back. I’m not offended if I follow someone and they don’t follow me back. I don’t get this ‘just unfollow’ app thing (though I’m sure it must have its uses and merits). In all honesty I couldn’t care less if X number of people follow me and X number unfollow me this week. So what? Imagine in real life if we did this?  “Oh this week, 5 people started stalking me but , can you believe it, 9 stopped?! I mean I don’t know what I did to offend them.”  (Of everything I’ve written I can imagine this getting me some rough feedback and perhaps an unfollow or 10 because I know many Twitter users are trying to build readership so it’s fair enough, but I  find it amusing and it’s not for me.)   I think I made it plain in Part 1 that I don’t really know  my initial motivations for joining  Twitter but I sure as hell know  why I stay. For the great people I have met and the conversation and interaction I have with a small proportion of my followers not so I can boast numbers. In all honesty out of 600 followers how many do actually interact? 50 maybe? I don’t know. Now I’m not berating this. If you had 600 friends in ‘real life’ you’d only ever be able to catch up with them maybe once every 5 years. So I’m not going to take offence if people don’t interact with me. Furthermore we simply can’t get on with EVERYBODY. It’s impossible.

One thing I personally really don’t get though is the people who follow someone expecting an automatic follow back only to either spam you with Direct Meassages inviting you to their Facebook page or tweeting never-ending links to Amazon and quotes about their book. (Yes dear writer follower I am talking about you. Feel free to unfollow any time. I was never popular at school, so like I care now at 38 what a stranger thinks.) Here’s my own experience of buying from other Twitter writers: I have bought 4 books as a direct result of Twitter. Not one of them was because the author tweeted constant links. One, the most well known, was from an actually traditionally published author called  ‘The Humans’ and then ‘The Radleys’ both by Matt Haig who I  have blogged about the wonders of before. I bought his book because his tweets showed him as a person. A real live person with thoughts and feelings and everything. I enjoyed his tweets so I had the feeling I’d enjoy his work. I was not disappointed.

Another was a recommendation from  a fellow Tweep on behalf of another of my Tweeps but again by that stage I’d got to know him on Twitter a little and I liked what he had to say and his style and so I bought his book. This has happened with two more writers. Writers whose tweets made them human as oppose to automated robots who just post links all day to their book. SNORE. But then I believe writers should not be looking necessarily for other writers to buy their books. I hate to be blunt but I’m not gong to buy your YA novel because, well, I’m not 16 . No biggy. Equally I’m unlikely to buy your zombie epic, your romance novel, steampunk – dystopian – wotsit or your bondage erotic trilogy because they’re just not my bag. No matter how well written/researched etc…And like I’ve said before, I won’t expect you to buy my Middle Grade fantasy adventure. Unless that’s what you’re into of course.

This is turning to a rant isn’t it? Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes the greatness of Twitter.

This Used To be My Playground

Here’s the thing. In my mind, Twitter is no different really to ‘real life’ social networks. Not really, if you analyse it.  I liken it to my old school days. Here’s how I think it works.

1) First there’s your  Twitter family. The hard-core group who somehow got thrown together in the big bang of life and you’re still not sure how. The family unit you can always depend on and go to when in trouble and who will jump to your defence when someone on the playground isn’t playing nicely.

2)Then there’s the cool gang. The ones you’ll never be ‘in’ with because well they’re just too cool enough for skool. BUT it seems on Twitter even some of the cool kids talk to me. (Though I bet they don’t think they are as cool as I think they are.) I say only some of them, not all of them, because you know a few REALLY are too cool.

3)There are the casual acquaintances who flit in and out occasionally and pass by on the corridor just stopping briefly to acknowledge your existence.  They might favourite or retweet your tweets occasionally but no commitment.

4) Not to forget the fun friends – not the serious friends  – not the ones you pour your heart out to when you’re being dumped, No, the fun friends are the ones who  you meet for a sneaky drink and a game of pool down the pub after hours. On Twitter they pop up more frequently than most and you talk about daft stuff like films and what the postman had for tea. That sort of thing.

5) As in all good schools, there are the professionals – the teachers.  The ones who only tweet about writing. These Tweeps are invaluable to give you much-needed advice when you require it. Some are even there with a helping hand when you don’t require it. Teacher’s hey?

6) Of course there are the Twitter crushes. (oh yes, you know you all have them; admit it!) The guy/girl at school you’d love a date with if only they’d notice you. *Sigh. Those elusive Tweeps (possibly famous) who you just think are the bees knees and a small flutter knots in your belly whenever they favourite your tweet or (*screams) actually reply to one! Those Tweeps you dream of meeting, but God, you’d be too embarrassed to actually speak to them and would stutter and stumble over your words if ever they asked you out.

7) And last but by no means least, we  have the inner circle.  Those close friends  with whom you conspire with about the world. The ones who you regularly Direct Message. Not to spam them but because they’re the best ones to chat with and they feel like your best friends on this old Twitter. For me currently there are four stalwarts (pretty sure that’s more than I ever had at school) and they will know who they are from the fact they know I DM them. They are great people and very supportive of my writing without being false or “schmoozey.” There’s that word again. They are all great. Everyone has their own and they are the rare diamonds who you’ve  found and gel with better than anyone else in your chemistry class.

Reality Check

I do often think it’d be awesome to meet some of my Twitter friends out here in the ‘real’ world, as to find people you have writing in common with is rare. Or in my case non existent. I know absolutely no one in my world who writes and so it’s just not a conversation I can have. Also the people I speak to on Twitter are often so funny and entertaining I can’t help but think we’d have a great night down at the pub having a drink or two. On the other hand,  I do think if any of us actually did  meet up it may and up being a little like a denouement scene from a murder mystery! We’d probably all be really awkward around each other, highly suspicious and end up talking in monosyllables as most of us are introverts who hide behind a computer screen or inside the stories we’re writing. I for one do not cope too well with any more than two people at a time. Actually I’m a bit like this on Twitter. If too many people enter a conversation I back out. It becomes overwhelming. Another example of how Twitter really is quite similar to ‘real’ life.

A Change Will do You Good?

The one thing I will say about Twitter is it has changed the landscape of my writing in two ways. In one way I am not too happy about it, as being on Twitter has shifted the focus of my writing away a little from my trilogy in progress as I start to dip into other things like short stories. (Most people start with short stories/novellas and build up to the novel. Not me, Miss Naive charges in with an epic fantasy trilogy and then works backwards.) It’s also seen me get involved in writing a novel with 8 other writers. A mad cap, probably drunken idea whereby we write a few paragraphs in turn before e mailing on to the next person. Fun, but totally mad!Great for further expanding and practising my skills but taking me away from my WIP. A double edged sword.

However despite this shift in focus, there is a definite up side and that is: the writers I have met on Twitter have given me the confidence to develop more in terms of stretching my creativity. Friday Phrases has been instrumental in this. Some of the writers I’ve met have done no end of good in helping me continue on the journey and have a bit more self belief in what I’m trying to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, the opposite happens too. I look at some writers and am so in awe of what they can do with words I just die inside a little every time I read their work and I want to give up. I often feel like an extremely inadequate writer, a total faker at it. But I also have  many people giving me faith in myself that sometimes I don’t know what to do with all the compliments. Twitter has the capacity to make me  feel equally stupid and equally clever at times. Writers come across as incredibly knowledgeable and I can feel sadly lacking. Then there are the odd educationalists I’ve come across and they talk so eloquently about educational issues whereas I just rant, I wonder whether I should be teaching either.

All You Need is Love

Now, finally I must point out on the issue of compliments. I am not one for dishing out false praise or schmoozing others. I think sometimes some of this can go on on Twitter but I can’t say I partake in such games and I’m usually pretty good at spotting people who are trying to schmooze. I can read people pretty well, although the goalposts shift slightly with Twitter because there’s no body language to go by.  I’m one of those people whose face will speak a thousand words and you will know what I’m thinking instantly from my expression. It’s a blessing and a curse of life. But, as my avatar only has one expression (i.e me gurning like a demented happy person, NOT my everyday look,) it would be difficult for Tweeps to read me. So I am as honest on Twitter as I am in real life.  In ‘real’ life if I can’t be bothered with a person, for whatever reason, I won’t. If I like you, you will know. If you schmooze me on Twitter, I won’t necessarily schmooze back. I’ll be polite but I won’t stroke your ego just for the sake of it and I don’t expect anyone to stroke mine. I’m not saying it’s not nice for people to pay genuine or sincere compliments because of course it is. (Though lately in real life I’ve had a very bad experience of being built up, placed on a pedestal, only to realise not everything which passes from another’s lips is either sincere or lasting, so I’m wary of compliments in general.) So what I’m saying is, if I pay you a compliment on Twitter it is genuine and I hope the same applies back. As far as I’m concerned, if I like you, if I like your writing or your tweets you will know because I will say and I will extol it to all. I do not favourite tweets or retweet for the sake of it. I hope others don’t do that for me. If you sincerely like what I write/tweet great. Say so. I’ll be chuffed to pieces. If you’re doing it in the hope I’ll stroke your ego back  or like your stuff, well like I say I won’t play that game.  But I don’t believe many people do do this  which is why, up until now, I have had  a great experience on Twitter.

Cheers! Here’s to another year. Hopefully.

So a year on…

Right, I think it’s time I drew this ramble to a close and summarise:

1) Twitter’s great but I’m using it as a substitute social life which is good and bad in equal measure. It has made me more reclusive yet I’ve met some great people to chat to.

2)The writing community on Twitter is the best and I would recommend you follow writers on Twitter because they are ace and you might also find one whose book you want to read. Bonus.

3) Twitter scares and delights me in equal measure. Too many people all at once overwhelms me, too few and I wonder if anyone could care less and paranoia creeps in. So much for escaping reality.

4) I get a mega boost to my self-esteem at times as some people seem to genuine like my writing which I still find really weird. At other times I still feel like the odd ball in the corner whist the cool people chat about stuff I have no idea of. Oh not to mention all the stunningly attractive people on Twitter whose avatars just shout confidence, creativity and sexiness whilst me… well let’s just say cameras and me will never be friends.

Would I recommend Twitter? Absolutely. It’s a fantastic way of meeting like-minded people across the world to chat with. Even if only through cyber space. I’m meeting new and interesting people all the time.

Ultimately  I believe Twitter is a place where I do belong. At least for now.  I think I have finally come to realise that friendships are often fleeting and usually occur more as a result of circumstance than much else. I’m pretty sure Twitter relationships are no different. I’d like to believe otherwise – you know that all friendships were deep and built to last. However, all good things have a habit of coming to an end, so perhaps I’ll just enjoy the ride and friendships whilst they last.

If you’ve manged to make it all the way to the end of this ramble around my brain, well firstly congratulations!  You have better concentration and staying power than I.

Secondly thanks for reading as always. You are more appreciated than you know 🙂

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Filed under Writing

A Place Where I Belong (Part 1)

“When every lie speaks the language of love,
It never held the meaning I was thinking of
And I lost the line between right or wrong,
I just want to find a place where I belong.”

(Beth Orton: Stolen Car)

So Twitter? What’s that all about then?

It’s almost a year since I delved into the world of Tweeting (yes I am always late to every party, if indeed I get there at all) and so I thought I’d mark the anniversary with a blog post about how the year has developed there as, believe it or not, Twitter and my writing journey are intrinsically linked, of that there is no escaping. So here is Part 1 of “My Twitter History”; an unlikely place for me to belong.

Desolate and alone…

A couple of weeks ago I posted a story about Lily. Lily felt she as though she didn’t belong on the playground she wandered every playtime or, more specifically, she didn’t feel as though she belonged with the kids she shared the playground with. For a long time this is how Twitter seemed for me. It felt like that playground – a place where I’d never belong. Too full of cool people and celebrities for someone like me .

I’d avoided Twitter like the plague for all of the time I’d known about it (as I’d avoided Facebook until the middle of 2010). First off I didn’t like the name ‘Twitter’ or the terminology ‘tweeting’.  “We’re not sodding birds”  I’m sure are words which once came out of my mouth.

On one long motorway journey to a gig in London in 2012 my brother’s mate had even tried extolling its virtues to me:

“Oh you should get yourself on the Twitter Jo, it’s great. I hardly bother with Facebook anymore.”

(Yes we’d noticed.)

“But isn’t Twitter just a place where ordinary folk stalk celebrities and where celebrities tweet each other luvvie stuff?” I asked “It wouldn’t be for me. Besides you’re only allowed 140 characters aren’t you? What can you say in 140 characters.? Everyone knows I’m completely verbose, you’ve seen my FaceBook statuses…blah blah blah” (see this is me, Verbose. Twitter? Pah!)

“Tim Burgess is all over Twitter, you’d love it Joanne,” my brother chimed in.

Hmmmmm.

Fast forward 6 months and I’m sitting in a school hall on a Teacher Training day listening to the  dulcet Liverpudlian tones of the inspirational Sir John Jones. Sir John WHO? You say. Yes, well who indeed? As it turns out an ex head teacher who is now so in demand as an inspirational education speaker he’s flitting up and down the country motivating teachers across the land. It was from him speaking about technology and the fast moving pace of our lives and how just because we are middle aged or older, doesn’t mean we should be left behind that I started to take the idea of Twitter seriously. He spoke about social media, and Twitter in particular, and as I had done with Facebook 3 years previously I thought: “If you can’t beat ’em, join em” and that very evening I hyper-jumped into the Twitterverse.

Okay hyper-jumped might be a slight exaggeration. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, or even really why I was doing it.  A good friend of mine said after I announced my leap into the unknown:

“Oh I use Twitter, but it’s still very hard to fathom. It seems to me to be the equivalent of getting in with a cool group of friends at school that only speak in spurts, hence me not really getting it.”

Yep, he summed it up quite nicely I thought. This is exactly as it felt. I had no idea what was going on. The first person I followed was Sir John then the school I work at (you know to keep up) and thirdly Tim Burgess. (naturally) A couple of friends followed me so I followed them back along with my brother and his mate and Stephen Fry (obviously, because who doesn’t follow the twitter king?). A handful of others followed these but other than checking up on the latest gigs and sounds from Tim, checking out some interesting Ted Talks, sharing jokes and music with a couple of friends, I couldn’t see the point. My friends and family were on Facebook already so my activity on Twitter was quite limited. And that’s how it stayed for a while.

Me meeting the wonderful legend that is Tim Burgess at a gig in Manchester, just a week or so after joining Twitter and upping my stalking ability. (One of those occasions when you wished you’d chosen your outfit more carefully & bought spare make up… and a comb.)

Eventually, I followed a couple of writers, a couple of writers followed me and I followed them back. In those early days  the writers who I followed were mainly of the type who retweet and share blog links about writing which, as it turned out, was exactly what I needed. At the time my first draft was out with some children but as I read more and more writer’s blogs I realised  I had A LOT of  serious work to do. These early writers I followed may not have been into the big social interaction  but the information they shared was invaluable. I learned about self publishing and writing and reading and editing and well just about everything related to writing. Stuff  I didn’t  know yet should have known before I embarked on writing a novel.

It turned out from reading the blogs that the biggest piece of advice I could have was  that if I was hoping to publish a book then I should, well…get myself an author blog and start blogging. this would serve apparently to set the ground work and “get myself out there.”  Oh jeeze.  I’d hated the word blogging even more than tweeting when I first heard it. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. I’m still not particularly enamoured with the  verb if I’m honest. It sounds as though you have some sort of nasal problem and can’t say blocking properly. Anyway, I’d first heard the term ‘blogging’ back in the way back of when, banded around as a great idea to try out with kids in school. However I.T is not my bag and blogging to me simply sounded like quite a pointless, narcissistic thing to partake in, given there was email and Facebook and MSN and Skype to communicate through. You know, not to mention texting and actually talking to other human beings. I couldn’t see the point. (There are times even now when I don’t see the point, like right now for instance. Why am I sat here on a Saturday afternoon, blogging about my journey into Twitter? I mean really who actually cares? – I’ll come back to that point later.)

So in June of last year, against all the voices of the past yelling at me, I decided to set up a blog.  In actual fact it was another writer on Twitter who inspired and planted the seed in my brain for me to set up a  blog  along with a Facebook page but I’m not sure if he even realises it was he whose model I followed. Russell Sanderson (you can find him on Twitter at @sheddenizen) was one of the first writers I came across on Twitter. He’s one of the quieter writers I’ve come to know but he’s given me great pointers and advice, is very down to earth, none “schmoozy” as I like to say! He’s on quite a similar journey to myself as he is writing for the Middle Grade/Young Adult market too.  So yes, Russell, if you’re reading I have you to thank for inspiring me to get off my backside and start a page and blog!

I knew I needed to have a focus for my blog rather than it being a myriad of ramblings (Ooops -fail)  which is why it started life as a blog about the writing journey. Essentially that’s what it still is although it seems to be evolving slightly and I’m doing the thing I said I despised about blogging initially. It’s starting to become something of a platform for some of my more random musings – a place where I can write about anything I like really, sort of like an online diary. Whereas no one really read the blog when it started so it didn’t matter too much, now quite a few people do so I feel a bit strange and a bit of a let down sometimes sharing so much. But hey, no one’s forcing anyone to read. For me, blogging has become a good vehicle to practise my writing or share and receive feedback on what I write. Blogging also helps me to channel the never ending monologue stream that runs through my head. These are  my primary reasons for blogging now. It’s not really about self promotion as I thought it would be at first or at least thought it should be. It’s a bonus if people do read and respond.

For a few months the blog got only a few hits, some by family and friends (though they don’t bother so much anymore) and some via WordPress itself. It didn’t worry me. I couldn’t believe even one person would want to read it, let alone the few regular hits I had each week or so.

But it was Twitter which started to bring people (I hate the term “traffic” as I see so many refer to people who visit blogs) to this page. Not because it was on my bio and not because I tweeted, saying “please visit my blog”.  No, the blog grew as Twitter grew. It all seemed to happen quite suddenly around October time.  I was starting to build up an increasingly larger following, which started, I realised later, simply because I had begun to become more active on Twitter. If you are active, you put yourself out there for people to interact with. If you sit there expecting people to come to you, well then it doesn’t happen. However my activity at that point was still limited to tweeting with a few friends and the odd # regarding TV programmes or issues in the news. I wasn’t brave enough to always tweet with people I didn’t know, but when I saw others did it, I slowly began to do the same. Soon a steady following began to grow. BUT and this is a big but… (no, I know I have a big butt, but I’m not talking about that right now) numbers bother me not one jot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have people feel they want to follow you, but I am not obsessed with if people follow me then un-follow me. I don’t care. I still don’t know why I started on Twitter but one thing is for sure, it was not to amass some huge cult following in the hope everyone would buy my book. As my novel is a children’s novel I wouldn’t expect any of the people who follow me on Twitter to buy it. I know my marketing and promotion strategy will have to be more robust and child centred than that. (But this advice goes to anyone who thinks tweeting about your book 24/7 is going to make people want to buy it. It’s not. Please stop. Okay. Public Service Announcement done.)

What has come out of Twitter for me (and if you ask most writers on there the same thing) it is the unexpected and wonderfully supportive, online community I have gradually uncovered. My own particular hub began first with Russell as I have already mentioned, a British writer who tweets with me not only about writing but also about wood burning stoves, Game of Thrones and generally cosy winter based themes! (whilst it’s still winter at least!)  But one of the people I first properly interacted with on the other side of the Atlantic bought me to my current network of very wonderful friends. She sadly seems to have disappeared from Twitter  and  her blog, for which  I am sad, because if it wasn’t for her I may not have discovered some of the most wonderful  writer people to talk to online (more on them in Part 2)  or have  found the place where I finally feel a sense of belonging – something  I’ve been searching for since the mid 1990’s.

My Twitter bio has not changed since I first wrote it a year ago except for one thing. I started with ‘Twitter Novice’ but it now starts with ‘Twitter Addict’. For an introvert who doesn’t feel comfortable with interaction in large groups but does crave social interaction, debate and chat, Twitter has been a revelation.

Loch Lomond: Definitely a place where I belong.

Thank you as ever for reading and sticking with me on this leg of my journey.

Next Week:  A cast of 140 characters and how Twitter may well turn me into a recluse in: A Place Where I Belong (Part 2)

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