Deborah Jackson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How I Came to Love Twitter

It was unexpected. It began as a chore.

You must promote! As a writer you’re hammered with this notion incessantly, even though you despise self-promotion. At least I do. I write because I can’t imagine not writing, but once the book is published, all the other tasks that accompany it are tedious. And in the back of my mind, I think I’ll never measure up to the literary geniuses, so how can I promote myself?

Despite my distaste, I gritted my teeth and I joined.

Over a period of time the duty became a joyful experience, one I rush toward every morning and at various hours during the day.

The joy began when I realized that Twitter was more than a vehicle for sales. In fact it was the quite the opposite.

A universe opened up to me – a universe of information at my fingertips, breathtaking photographs and art, but above all people. These people had incredible insight, generosity and gift of the gab – in 140 characters or less. Immediately I realized that I would not self-promote, but I would take in and I would give back. When I began to do that, friendships developed – extraordinary friendships over vast distances that could never be bridged except in the cyber world.

Twitter emerged as something quite different from Facebook – more than “I know you from somewhere, so let’s connect.” Instead the connection occurred because of shared interests and passion, the way we sometimes make lifelong friends at conferences. For me it wasn’t just writerly people, but those interested in science, photography, art, archaeology – other passions of mine. It opened up an astounding world of fascinating, comical and complex human beings.

Another thing occurred to me as I observed and explored this strange and wonderful network.

Twitter was another manner of writing. A vehicle of expression, albeit a raw, ragged, sloppy one, minus the rewrites and editing. I could play around with language, something I love to do. Usually I express my thoughts, through characters and situations, of course, in 90,000 words. It’s a long, very self-involved process which I call “creative mode.” The purpose of writing is often personal – to transfer what the author is passionate about into a comprehensive tale while exploring various characters - weaving mulicoloured patterns into the tapestry, then trying on different outfits and diving through the mesh - but there’s also that desire to connect with readers. The problem with novel writing is that, for so many years, the author has been distanced from the reader.

Twitter allows you to connect directly. You can’t tell a tale, but you can inject personality and, because you’re constrained by the number of characters, it forces you to become creative.

I love the hashtag. Not to promote an idea or subject across the Twitterverse, but to add a splash of humour or contradict my own statement. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s me.

I like to comment on scientific discoveries or photographic enticements or rocks. Yes, rocks! But most of all, I like to smile, wink or chuckle with Twitterpals.

If you’re into Twitter simply to sell something, then I think you’ll become disillusioned rather quickly. Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch. But most people, if you really listen, have something valuable to say. And if you’re willing to give of yourself, your return will be more than you imagined.

If you smile at someone and they smile back at you, it’s worth more than all the gold in the ground.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Toy Graveyard

Has your basement, attic, spare bedroom or cupboard under the stairs become a toy graveyard? Do remnant Thomas the Train tracks or cabooses litter the visible carpet? Have Beanie Babies been tossed in obscure corners, collecting dust bunnies on their silken fur? Do you have to slalom through Polly Pockets and headless Barbies to get to the laundry?

Yes, sometimes our kids accumulate too many toys. What do I blame for that, besides myself? Christmas!

For some reason gold, frankincense and myrrh have transformed into heaps of toys, neglected and hardly used. The joy of giving has become the act of spoiling. Initially our kids squeal in excitement on Christmas morning, but even they start tossing the multiple toys aside after a while with barely a glance. And after spending all that money, we haven’t the heart to dispose of that perfect toy too quickly—especially after wracking our brains trying to come up with something different.

My kids have reached their teen years, so the gifts are fewer, but more expensive. Electronic gadgets—cell phones, iPods, Wii Games, but at least most of them are used until they’re out-of-date. For my younger great-nieces and nephews, I purchase books, but their parents have suggested a moratorium even on those. Too many books.

How can you have too many books?

Okay, so I have too many books. I have a bookshelf of unread books. I have a Kobo full of partially read classics. I have books on the floor, books on shelves in the living room, books on the shelf going down into the basement, books on several shelves in the basement and books on my night table and shelves above my bed. So yes, you can have too many books.

But I’m still convinced that books are the best gifts for kids. If you’re going to give your kids more gifts for Christmas, think of everything a book can do that the toys in the graveyard can’t seem to match (which is why they end up in the graveyard). A new world, an exquisite combination of colours and artwork to dazzle or amuse—if it’s a picture book—a laugh when it’s a sad day, a story that let’s your child know that he’s not alone with the problems he faces at each challenging age, a place to escape the pressures of this world (and let’s face it, kids have enormous pressure these days), an expanding vocabulary, the ability to focus—something multitasking and reduced physical activity (required to expend energy) have removed—the wonders of a different society or culture, lessons subtly incorporated to give them a moral grounding and the strength to face difficult choices, the magic of words so skillfully combined they’re musical to the ear and a future that only literacy can bring. There’s many more, but I’ll stop here so you can breathe.

My daughter once said on FB: I think that there are more books in my house than the average person can read in a lifetime... let's hope I'm not an average person. (I intend to dig into them all... if they're interesting.)

Why would she say that? Because she loves to read. And that is the best gift I could give her.