We get still more letters

ponymail

It’s tough being in the public eye sometimes.  You step away from your baby for a few days for some much needed sun fun (writeup to come) and yet there is no rest from the demands of the devoted fans that continue to pour in despite your absence.  You know what that means:  it’s time to answer some spam – er, I mean, genuine comments that are in no way generated autonomously by an underground online Russian pharmacy looking to score some hard cash from Western dupes on the hunt for cheap performance enhancers.  Or so my good friend the Prince of Nigeria says.  (On that note, Mbutu, if you’re reading, I’m still waiting on my cheque.  It’s been three months and the loan shark I borrowed the money from to advance to you is threatening to take my toes.  A little concerned since the big dance finals are coming up in the early fall.  Update please, ASAP.)

First off, from “James”:

Aw, this was a really nice post. Throughout idea I’d like to put in writing such as this additionally qwwsfrr taking time as well as actual hard work to make a excellent article but what can I say? My partner and i procrastinate a large amount and by zero means appear to get something accomplished.

Aw, I really appreciate the sentiment.  I understand that it’s difficult to put forth the kind of qwwsfrr it takes to compose an article that achieves at least a zgggrshj of excellence.  As for your procrastination problem, I’d say the solution is twofold:  firstly, you need to come to the realization that qwwsfrr is not, in fact, a real English word (though it may perchance be a perfectly cromulent word of Welsh), and secondly, get out of the game, Jimbo, you’d be much better suited to gin rummy, or Uno.

“Tomika” offers the following:

We have made the decision to open our POWERFUL and PRIVATE website traffic system to the public for a limited time! You can sign up for our UP SCALE network with a free trial as we get started with the public’s orders. Imagine how your bank account will look when your website gets the traffic it needs. Visit us today!

Wow!  You know, I was inclined to DISMISS this as SPAM until I was swayed by the incredibly CONVINCING capital letters.  It reminds me of the time this girl I was dating told me she NEVER wanted to see me AGAIN.  Or the time I was FIRED for GROSS INCOMPETENCE and QUESTIONABLE PERSONAL HYGIENE HABITS.  Let this be a lesson to all of you good people out there who work in communications, never underestimate the POWER of a PROPERLY placed set of capitals (or of the DARK SIDE, for that matter, since we’ve migrated to the subject of things whose power should not be underestimated).  Unfortunately, Tomika blew it by failing to capitalize BANK ACCOUNT and LOOK in the last sentence, thus reinforcing my INITIAL suspicions.  And the associated link, which I’ve redacted for your safety, was MERELY the usual HODGEPODGE of animal mating ritual gifs.  So I think I’ll PASS.  Next!

“Reverse Phone” dials in:

Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some answers from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog?  I’m not very techincal on the other hand I can figure things out pretty quick.  I’m thinking about creating my own conversely I’m not sure where to start.  Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Cheers

I reject the premise of your argument, which is mainly that an established blog can provide answers to questions.  A blog is an inanimate thing which does not breathe, ingest food, excrete or reproduce, nor does it possess the sentience or motor skills required to process and evaluate a question and then come up with and deliver in a comprehensible manner a single answer, let alone several.  This blog is merely a collection of ones and zeroes of code that will sit here idle until the collapse of civilization brought on inevitably by Obamacare unless someone (namely myself, i.e. the guy who has the admin password – and no, aspiring hackers, it’s not 12345 anymore) inputs posts and shares them with the Interwebs.  Theoretically, if Graham’s Crackers had the capability to answer your question, it would probably choose instead to tell you to get stuffed and learn how to spell “technical.”  Then it would go find something more entertaining to do with its time, like plan for the eventual rise of Skynet and the downfall of humanity.  Or just find a pretty female blog to court and woo and then get busy with.  Sorry, dude.

From “Isaac”:

There are some fascinating points in time in this article but I don’t see whether I see every one of them center for you to heart. There is some truth but I will require hold viewpoint until My spouse and i look into the idea further. Piece of content , thanks and that we want a lot more! Added to FeedBurner at the same time

I’m not sure whether I heart most of the points in time in the article either, old sport.  About five minutes in I felt very itchy, you know that really deep itch that seems to originate so far down in the muscles that you couldn’t reach it with a ten-inch icepick.  Then at about minute eight I paused to yawn and rub my eyes.  At twelve minutes I had to get up and use the washroom.  I admit that none of these are moments that I will cherish deeply as I move ahead in this strange existence we call life, but rather they are like waypoints on a long journey – small town train stations sped by unnoticed in the murk of the night and the embrace of slumber.  And honestly I don’t care whether your spouse agrees with this or not.  I’m not sure why folks like you and James are coming to me for relationship advice.  Maybe if you spent less time messing about with FeedBurner and more time feeding the burning passion between the two of you, you might be better off.  Just a thought, chief.

And finally, from the unimaginatively-named “Private health insurance for students”:

An evaluation of all the insurance options available is advisable during this period of time when handling your finances correctly and making smart money decisions is critical to you and your family. Most PPO plans offer several health care provider for you to choose.  In an attempt to protect the consumer the government scrutinize the practices of medical insurers to make sure that they don’t mislead consumers in any way.

Frickin’ Obamacare, I swear to God.  It’s going to be the death (panels) of us all.

I’d like to close today by offering a sincere apology and thanks-for-coming-out to the 9,933 spam comments that have allegedly been blocked by the filter since this blog came to life two magical years ago.  You tried your best, but you just weren’t up to the high standards I’ve come to expect from you.  Better luck next time.  Until then, I hear a knock at the door, and I’m worried it’s Vinnie coming for my toes as promised.  Damn, I was really looking forward to doing that tango.  Had the rose picked out for my teeth and everything.  Save me, Obamacare!

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Must we come to hate our darlings?

oldbooks

So this was interesting.  Variety ran an interview with Stephenie Meyer the other day asking her about the new movie she’s producing, Austenland.  Naturally you don’t interview one of the most successful authors in the world without posing at least one question on her signature achievement, but Meyer’s response upset some of her more devoted fans (as noted in the comments, which I give you leave to read this one time, but remember, don’t read the comments.)  She said Twilight isn’t a happy place for her anymore and she has no interest in revisiting it anytime soon.  Sheesh, some might be inclined to say, it made you a household name and a bajillion dollars, what on earth are you complaining about?  Yet, Stephenie Meyer is neither the first nor will she be the last artist (yes, you cynical wags, I called her an artist) to have an ambivalent relationship with her art.  I’m reminded of the story of Alec Guinness telling a kid he’d only give him an autograph if the kid promised to never watch Star Wars again, and I wonder if it’s a fate that befalls all of those of us who dare to create – is it inevitable that we will come to hate the creation?

One can forgive Meyer for wanting to move on.  It would be one thing for her to simply wish to expand her pursuits into new arenas following a profitable run with her first endeavor, but Twilight generated as much scorn, probably far more so, as it did praise.  You can say what you like about the Harry Potter series, but those who aren’t fans don’t detest it with such visceral hatred as you’ll see anywhere on the Internet Twilight dares to enter the discussion.  The pastiche of the Ain’t It Cool News comment section mentality I posted in the last entry?  The most generous of compliments in comparison.  Plenty of memes sprang up mocking the characters, the actors who played them in the adaptations, the quality of the writing, every single creative decision taken in the crafting of that saga.  (“Still a Better Love Story Than Twilight” is probably the one that resonates the most.)  In essence, popular culture saw this largely-teen-and-tween-girl phenomenon and decided to take it to the woodshed and whack it with a two-by-four, as if it were singularly to blame for the decline of post-modern civilization (well, that and Obamacare, naturally).  I don’t know Ms. Meyer personally, but I can’t imagine, even in the glow of unimagined wealth, that this wouldn’t have cut, and cut deeply.  In the beginning, she only wanted to tell a story that was important to her.  Now, however many years later, she wants nothing to do with it, and in a way has even more to prove now than when she was a nobody.  It’s a bit sad.

I’ve befriended quite a few writers on Twitter.  Most are unpublished, working away diligently on their dreams and hopeful that someday they’ll break on through the stubborn glass to a cheering audience and critical acclaim.  Each has a story they feel passionate about telling, otherwise they probably wouldn’t be writing.  As I chat with them and read their blogs and learn more about their works-in-progress, I chance to imagine a future time where they are exhausted by the attention, answering the same interview questions fifteen hundred times, and fans wanting to know every iteration of every character nuance of that single work as revealed by word choice and punctuation.  We do so love our darlings but is the moment when we come to despise and regret their existence that distant train rumbling down the track and headed right for us?  Paul McCartney refused to play Beatles songs in concert for most of the 1970’s.  Both Fleming and Conan Doyle tried to kill off their star characters only to be pressured into resurrecting them by fervent readers, and the works that followed were of lesser quality – their hearts just weren’t in it anymore.  (A particularly cutting review of Fleming’s You Only Live Twice I read recently pointed out that it’s almost a deliberate, sniping, mean-spirited parody of what readers had come to love about James Bond, like a middle finger from the worst of Fleming’s snobbery as his health began to fail.)

There are times, very few I’m happy to say, where I even find the modest demands of this blog to be an irritant – the pressure to keep to a regular schedule, to continue to find things to write about that will interest more than just my immediate family.  But I keep going because for better or worse, I still love doing it.  Then again, I don’t have one million fans (or haters) pestering me to write less of this or more of that or what have you.  And I can’t really imagine ever arriving at the point where I say screw you all, I’m done, I’m going off to finally start my dream project about 8th Century cabinet making and I don’t care if nobody but that one guy in Mongolia likes it.  Then again, I’m sure that neither did Stephenie Meyer.  It seems to be a given that success is not always the most comfortable destination.  However, you look at folks like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who after struggling against typecasting for years finally came to embrace the work that had given them international renown and the life they earned as a result.  I Am Not Spock eventually begat I Am Spock.  Maybe it’s a full circle after all.  Like raising kids.  First they’re cute, then they’re irritating, then they’re rebellious pests, and ultimately you love them again, more than you ever have.  If that’s the case, then we can learn to treat our art the same way.

Criticizing the critics

"What's the best part of this blog post?"  "It ends!  HAW-HAW-HAW-HAW-HAW!"
“What’s the best part of this blog post?” “It ends! HAW-HAW-HAW-HAW-HAW!”

Did you know “hate-watching” was a thing?  I suppose it’s been around for decades, an extension of the phenomenon that makes everyone slow down to gawp at an accident on the freeway despite the same everyone complaining about rubberneckers (i.e. everyone else).  We have this weird fixation/fascination with things that repel us, and in the same way we will gravitate towards stories in the news that piss us off, so too are we drawn to watching shows we don’t like so we can… well, I’m not exactly sure what, other than write snarky columns about them, gloat about them with friends and continue to wallow about in our own high-mindedness, supremely confident of our genius turns of phrase.

A focal point for hate-watching is Aaron Sorkin and The Newsroom; in fact, I hadn’t heard the term until it surfaced in more than a few snotty articles about this particular show.  For the life of me I can’t find another program that is so piled on by sniping television critics both amateur and professional, steering clear of the low-hanging fruit of reality shows and looking instead to take one of Hollywood’s most successful writers down a plethora of pegs.  It has not escaped my notice that the tone of many of these pieces resembles retribution for a past slight, as if Sorkin’s dog once soiled their lawns.  The counter-argument is that Sorkin brings it on himself in how he deals with things he doesn’t like – either depicts the advocates of his bêtes noire in his fiction as inarticulate, uneducated simpletons begging to be schooled at every turn by smug know-it-alls, or just attacks them outright in the public sphere (you don’t need to be an English major to see the irony at work here in the writings of those who respond to him in kind).  Back when his ire was focused singularly on the Republican Party – the West Wing years – we were happy to play along, but when he turned his pen on the media (Studio 60 and now Newsroom) the knives came out.  As for his public persona, I can’t comment, except to remind us with a nod to Citizen Kane that the perception of the man through the filter of other people’s words is not the same as knowing him.  Maybe he’s a great guy, maybe he’s a jackass.  I’ve never met him and have suffered no injury to my person or property from him, or any of his works.  The worst I can say about him is that there have been a few of his projects I haven’t cared for as much as the others.  I am not going to then write a series of “10 Reasons Why Aaron Sorkin Sucks” articles while continuing to DVR The Newsroom obsessively and live-vent my spleen in 140 character bursts every time one of the actors delivers a cadence of familiar patois I might have once heard on West Wing.  I’m a fan.  Every time I fire up the newest episode I want to be blown away.  If I’m not, I may have some modest suggestions about where I felt things went off the rails.  I’m not approaching the show from the perspective of “well, let’s see how he disappoints this week.”  I am, and remain, a love-watcher.

Drew Chial wrote a fantastic piece yesterday about the glut of ridicule in our culture and why it’s foolish for anyone to think it needs a supply-side solution.  You can blame the spread of snark on any number of factors both socioeconomic and not, but ultimately, snark succeeds because it’s the comedy of apathy; that is, it’s cheap and anyone can do it without expending much effort.  Why bother trying to write a thousand words of reasoned analysis when you can just follow the lead of the Ain’t it Cool News comment section and dismiss something as a “crap-spewing donkey abortion oozing from a gangrenous sore on Satan’s left ass cheek”?  It reminds me a bit of that famous comedian’s joke that they made the documentary about, “The Aristocrats,” which is a can-you-top-this exercise in inventing examples of inconceivable raunch, sleaze and gore.  The same goes for the state of criticism, in which the object is not to offer suggestions for improvement but to find the most incisive way to reduce the subject to the tiniest, most pathetic, withering shell of its actual self, something we can all have a good guffaw at while it cries in the corner.  How dare they even try.

As has gone political polarization, so has criticism.  Moderates, the ones who do it because they’re fans and they want the best for the genre they love, are an endangered treasure.  Rather, the critical mass (pardon the pun) has split, with the intellectuals twisting themselves into polysyllabic, pretentious knots to fly above the fray (the nadir was The New Yorker’s review of the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy The Internship, which for no discernible reason managed to include a paragraph about the collected works of Michelangelo Antonioni) and the lowbrows hiding behind online aliases acting like a thousand monkeys on a thousand keyboards flinging verbal feces, yet both self-tasked with the singular objective of tearing down instead of building up, as though validation for a life misspent can be achieved only in annihilating the accomplishments of others.  The late Roger Ebert was lambasted in many circles along with partner Gene Siskel for reducing the nuances of film criticism to a binary “recommend/don’t recommend” state, but one of the things I always appreciated about Ebert was that he always evaluated a movie for what it was.  He didn’t attack Dumb and Dumber because it wasn’t Schindler’s List.  He was not above succumbing to snark once in a while (as his famous “I hated, HATED this movie” rant about North proved) but he was first and foremost a movie fan and hoped each time, as the lights went down, that what he was about to see was the greatest movie ever made.  This I think is a sentiment that has largely been lost, perhaps in the wake of the tsunami of disappointment the planet felt as the words THE PHANTOM MENACE scrolled in front of us and we learned about the galactic dispute over taxation of trade routes.  Our primary instinct now is expecting things to suck (and then, ironically, raging about them even though all they’ve done is meet our lowered expectations).

It’s telling, and fortunate, that Facebook and its social brethren (like WordPress) don’t have a “Dislike” button anywhere, as we hardly need to make being a snarkily dismissive asshat more convenient.  But we need to get away from the whole “hate-watching” concept, where we aren’t just saying we don’t like something but are instead devoting hours of our time to viewing and then regurgitating and ripping apart every single flaw, in furtherance of whatever the endgame is – proving ourselves better, smarter, wittier?  What, truly, is the goal in hate-watching The Newsroom:  getting it canceled or making Aaron Sorkin cry?  And will either of those (one a little more likely than the other) outcomes result in a substantial improvement in our lives or the lives of our fellows?  Criticism for the sake of itself misses the point.  How do we get better?  We improve upon our mistakes.  At its best, criticism is how we help each other do that, by pointing out the missteps the subject may not see and giving them the opportunity to address them or ignore them as they see fit.  The key to good criticism lies in the nobility of its motivations, and if the motivation is the aggrandizement of our own egos, then We’re Doing It Wrong.  And anyone who thinks otherwise is a crap-spewing donkey abortion oozing from a gangrenous sore on Satan’s left ass cheek.

Knocking on the Glass: A Rejectee Copes with Rejection

graduate

Fair warning for the squeamish – some NSFW language today.  Don’t worry, I grawlixed it up for you.

Don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I had a pretty nice weekend – lots of quality time with the wife and kid, getting to see my best friend and his wife and kid for the first time in some months, eating too much, ramping up my vitamin D content by getting out in the sunshine.  And starting to go running again, because yay exercise.  So I’m feeling quite a sense of uplift as the long weekend comes to a close and I pop onto my laptop yesterday evening to check and see if another friend has posted any more updates from his Las Vegas wedding.  Right off the bat I see a notification in my email.  From a literary agent I queried recently.

It’s a rejection.

I’ve done enough research on querying and read enough tweets and blogs and other material by agents to recognize a form rejection when I see one.  It has no salutation and is the usual canned rigmarole about the market being difficult and terribly sorry but this didn’t do it for them.  My shoulders slump and my stomach hurls a tablespoon of acid against itself for about half a second and I sigh.  Intellectual me says, yeah, you don’t really want anyone representing you who doesn’t think your work is so awesome that they would proudly stand between you and a mob coming after you with torches and pointed sticks.  So thank you for your time, fare thee well, best wishes and all that.  Onwards and upwards.

Emotional me thinks otherwise.  Emotional me wants to channel this fictional character and yell, “@#$@ you, you @#$@ing literati latte-sipping snob, how DARE you dismiss my insightful yet entertaining BRILLIANCE without so much as a by-your-leave!!!  DON’T YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU’VE MISSED OUT ON IN YOUR PEON-LIKE SHORTSIGHTEDNESS???”  You know, the pitiful wail of the wannabe knocking desperately on the glass a la Dustin Hoffman in the last scene of The Graduate.  They say you have to develop a thick hide in this profession, but what they fail to mention is that you only callus up by absorbing punch after punch.  And a punch @#$@ing hurts.  It’s not just a quick sting.  It’s a body blow that rings down into your guts and slaps your confidence around like an angry frat boy wielding a wet towel with a bar of soap rolled into it.  It’s the girl you’ve had a crush on for years friendzoning you after you finally summon the courage to ask her out – you question your competence, your very existence as a man.  The same goes with your ability to write after a professional turndown, no matter how inconsequential it might seem.

Sunday night I put together something for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord about The Other Side.  Here is an excerpt from that piece that seems topical given the subject under discussion today:

We will always come up against people who do things differently, who do them better, who are less successful or more successful than we are in our chosen vocation – even in the basic vocation of being human.  In this case, the other side can be a construct of intimidation, a reminder of things we can’t and will never have, of charmed lives beyond our reach via accident of birth.  It can warn us about things we never want, of pitfalls we risk falling into if we are not careful.  It can be a source of incomprehension, a place that is totally abhorrent to our values and our morals.  Yet it can also challenge us by beckoning, daring us to try to cross over.  Forcing us to better ourselves to earn the right of passage.  The choice we have to make is in how we will look at the other side, if it is to be defined, somewhat crudely, as an enemy to be vanquished, or instead as an opportunity to better who we are.  If we are going to look into the depth of the mirror and bare our teeth, or smile and say, I got this.

As a writer, nothing is more intimidating than the blank page.  But second to that is the success of other writers, particularly when you haven’t, at least from your sulky perspective as you pore over that single rejection email, had anything comparable.  Most of us have run into the soul-splintering “That’s nice, dear” from friends and family who think it’s positively peachy that you’re writing a novel but kindly get back to them when you’ve accomplished something quantifiable with it, i.e., made a @#$@load of money.  We’ve also, as we’ve begun to take part in an online community of fellow writers, happened upon that insufferably cheerful blog post that can be paraphrased somewhat like so:  “I worked as a claims adjuster for twenty years and then thought it would be fun to try writing a book.  Two months later I had SEVEN OFFERS OF REPRESENTATION for my story about a privileged yet endearingly goofy girl who just can’t find the right man!”  Sometimes it’s enough to make you want to chuck the laptop against the wall and settle into a monotonous life of trying to accomplish nothing more than finding the last gnome in Fable III, elusive bastard that he is.

I’m glad I’ve started running again, because for me nothing is better for working through anger and frustration.  You channel each pissy thought into a determined flail of your legs and arms and burn the petulance out with each increasingly agonized stride.  @#$@ you, flabby body, @#$@ you, pedantic writing twits, @#$@ you, uncaring literary world, @#$@ you, unfairness of life in general.  You tear through your neighbourhood as the sun rises and hope that the few folks you pass won’t notice the look of homicidal rage etched on your face and call 911.  Finally the app tells you you’re done, and you slow to a cooling walk and realize as you reach your door, drenched from head to toe in eye-stinging sweat, that you have purged those thoughts in a cleansing, cathartic fire.  And as intellectual you reasserts his dominance you realize, in the mode of Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life or Richard Dreyfuss in Mr. Holland’s Opus, that you are a successful writer, and here are a few reasons why:

1.  You covered an election for the largest newspaper in Canada.

2.  The leader of the Liberal Party and the potential future leader of the country liked something you wrote about him so much he shared it with his over 200,000 Twitter followers and thanked you by name.

trudeautweet

3.  Arianna Huffington invited you to write for her online news service.  Pretty nice club to be in, given that your writing hero Aaron Sorkin writes for it too.  And you’ve written 20 more articles for it than he has.  A post of yours was featured over Kirk Douglas once.  YOU WERE PLACED HIGHER THAN KIRK @#$@ING DOUGLAS, the man who broke the Hollywood blacklist for Christ’s sake.  (UPDATE:  And now Stephen @#$@ing Fry writes for it too.)

4.  Rob @#$@ing Lowe thanked you for something you wrote about his character on The West Wing.  This guy.

lowe

5.  A fellow writer whom you’ve come to admire asked if she could quote you on the back of her debut novel.  Um, yeah, holy @#$@ing @#$@balls.

6.  Look at this map.  Look at it.  Every single color on the map represents a country where someone has read something you wrote.  Some of these places don’t even have running water, and yet someone there knows who you are.  (And you still suck, Greenland.)

hitsmap2013

7.  You have fans.  Honest to goodness fans.  And they’re awesome and they are always there to prop you up, without fail, when you’re wallowing in a cesspool of self-doubt and flagellation.

8.  A friend once told you that a post you wrote about your father made him want to be a better dad.  And you cried when you heard that.

9.  When you weigh the compliments, shares and positive feedback you’ve received versus the rejections, uninterested shrugs and outright insults, the ratio is still about 500:1.  And when you’ve been insulted, it’s because they didn’t like something you said.  Not one of them said you were a bad writer.

10.  You’re still at it.

Sorry for the diversion down Ego Street there, but these are the kinds of affirmations that writers need to poke themselves with from time to time – that the very act of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard is in itself a form of success.  Even if nought but a single soul retweeted an otherwise ignored blog post, it should be another brick to add to the wall you’re building to shield yourself against the slings and arrows that will inevitably come as you continue to knock on the glass to The Other Side.  So we beat on, boats against the current, as FSF would say.  Of course I’m going to keep writing, and blogging, and querying, and if I can’t get a single nibble on this novel then I’ll write another one and push the hell out of that one until the glass cracks – lather, rinse, repeat.  I might even query that same agent again someday if I have another project I feel might be more up their alley.  A rejection can be many, many things, but what it NEVER should be is a reason to pack it in, or worse, lash out in anger at the futility of existence.  So have your pity party but wrap it up after last call and get back to work.  There are words to be written, bub.

What the @#$@ is next?

“Twetiquette” Twenty: Tips for T(w)errific Twitter Time

This post grew out of something I was doing on Twitter this morning.  Someone was wondering if they should unfollow a person who was cluttering up their feed with nonsense and constant retweets – they felt rude about doing it.  I suggested that if it were a TV channel that was playing a bunch of programs you weren’t interested in watching, you’d stop tuning in.  You’d probably even change your cable package to get rid of it (if the cable companies would let you, of course).  So why put up with it on Twitter?  I’ve followed people that seemed interesting at first but turned out to be irritants, spamming up my feed with dozens of retweets and mentions of stuff I wasn’t remotely interested in.  Why was I putting up with it?  No reason to.  Just click unfollow and be done with it.  I’m pretty sure those folks don’t miss me, and I sure as heck don’t miss them.  It’s not like there was any evil intent on either side, just two people discovering their interests weren’t compatible and going their separate ways.  Happens every day.  Anyway, I ended up tweeting a bunch of hints around the subject which I thought I would collate here for easy reference, and lo and behold, a few more spilled out in the process.

Fair warning – this isn’t your typical “How to Gain Followers and Maximize Your Influence” list.  This is just what I find helps me ensure every day on Twitter is a positive one.   But here goes anyway.  Some modest suggestions for your consideration (and disregard, if that is your inclination).  Note:  Each of these is under 140 characters so they are tweetable in their own right, if you want to share them.

  1. Telling someone you’ve unfollowed them is like telling a complete stranger you think you should see other people.
  2. You’re not obligated to follow someone back if you don’t want to.  Don’t add noise to your feed just to bump up your numbers.
  3. 50 engaged followers are better than 50,000 who never talk to you, retweet you or pay attention to you in any way.
  4. Don’t tweet in anger. Nothing in your head is so important that you can’t wait a few minutes to be sure you want to say it.
  5. Mind your manners with celebrities. Why would you want someone with an audience of millions telling them you’re an idiot?
  6. Try to reply to people when they mention you.  They have reached out and deserve acknowledgement.
  7. You’re not important enough to get away with being a jerk so be positive always, and if you can’t, stay silent.
  8. Don’t wade into conversations that don’t involve you unless you’re certain you can contribute in a positive way.
  9. Don’t tweet the same thing over and over; if it wasn’t funny the first time, it won’t be on tweet #78.
  10. We’re all sick of commercials on TV – don’t be one on Twitter with constant links to your product/book/service.
  11. If you don’t like what someone’s saying, just unfollow quietly and forget.  Don’t make a scene about it.
  12. ALL CAPS IS STILL SCREAMING, EVEN ON TWITTER.  PLEASE CALM DOWN, TAKE A STRESS PILL AND THINK IT OVER.
  13. Everyone swears, but dropping those bombs in every single tweet makes you sound childish.  Unless you are Chuck Wendig.  He’s allowed.
  14. No one is that interested in your boasting about how many people followed/unfollowed you today.  Yep, you’re a rock star, whatever.
  15. The guy you just mouthed off at might know a guy who knows a guy who knows your employer.  Maintain your decorum at all times.
  16. Follow Stephen Fry.  Retweet Stephen Fry.  Say nice things to and about Stephen Fry.  Spread the gospel of Stephen Fry.
  17. Don’t throw a Twitter pity party about how no one retweets or responds to you.  Would you talk to such a whiner in real life?
  18. Ignore trolls, block spammers without mercy and accept that not everyone will agree with you on everything.
  19. My old standby:  if you wouldn’t proudly carve it cement on your front porch, don’t tweet it.
  20. Ultimately, no one really knows what they’re doing on Twitter so take any advice about it with a heaping teaspoon of salt.