Handling Twitter

And other social media (welcome, Mastodon folks!)

by Diane Duane
One of the writer's virtual workspaces

Some time back I noticed that some people who use Twitter and have a fair number of followers have put up guides to the ways they use the platform, and what’s to be expected of them if you follow them. And some time last year the thought came to me: I really should do something like that, because my Twitter habits might need explaining to some folks. 

And then a number of things happened to me, not least among them being Dublin 2019, and the thought got tucked into my ToDoist app and buried. But just now, as one does when the year turns over, I was going through ToDoist to weed out tasks that had been dealt with or didn’t need to be any more, and ran across this reminder. Okay, I thought, let’s get this sorted.

So here’s how I handle Twitter. (ETA: And other social media in general. Many of the habits and tendencies expressed here have long since manifested on my Tumblr timeline, and have started to do so at Mastodon as I start getting settled in. I hope users there will be patient with me as I start finding out what habits cross over well and which ones should be left behind.)

As regards my own usage: I’m normally in and out of the platform all day, using it to take breaks from work and to keep an eye on what that part of the online world is up to. I use it to clue me in to news that needs to be more closely examined, and to keep track of what friends are up to. I check it almost first thing on awakening and almost first thing on turning in for the night. 

I retweet a lot, sharing things that strike me as funny, beautiful, notable, otherwise worthy of attention, or (sometimes) deeply annoying. If heavy-ish retweeting is a problem for you, you might not want to follow me to begin with. But if you do follow me, here are some thoughts about what you’ll see on my timeline:

A lot of different kinds of art. Graphic arts, calligraphy (both western-medieval and eastern, especially Islamic), font art, lithography, poster art in general. Renaissance art, medieval art, ancient art. Stained glass, sculpture, architecture. Art is life.

Music. Professional musicians and composers are amazing people, and my admiration of them is endless. I follow some of them here and am delighted when they share the mysteries of their craft. (I have some musical training—I started out as an organist—and have sort of devolved into someone who tinkers with keyboards.) Classical music is one of my great loves, but I like almost all kinds. Film soundtracks and TV music are my greatest modern-music loves (for various definitions of “modern”). 

Some stuff about militaria and weapons. Partly this is due to being married to @p_morwood, who is way too encyclopedic in this branch of knowledge, and in sharing it, causes more interest. But some of it is down to my own research preferences. I’ve found information of this kind handy in my writing, and (in particular) I have experience with swords of various kinds because I knew from my early 20s that it would be useful in my work as a writer of fantasy that contains these tools and technologies. …The confluence of militaria and art is also an interest. I follow the Met’s arms and armor feed and RT from it sometimes when something particularly elegant turns up.

Mythology, legend, folkloric info. All this is part of the normal ground of being for a fantasist, so any time something new and interesting turns up, it tends to get reflected in my timeline. Fairy tales are a passion for me, and their study (especially regarding the way everyday human beings intertwine them with their life scripts) is a constant fascination.

The sciences, especially astronomy. I’ve been hot for astronomy since I was eight. The hots haven’t worn off yet, and I don’t expect they ever will. My timeline is frequently infested by deep space and whatever fabulous new weirdness is going on in it. Nearer space, and space medicine, are also strong interests.

Cats. We’ve had quite a few. We don’t have any at the moment, but felines are often on my mind. 

Science fiction and fantasy fandom(s). My roots in fandom (convention fandom originally, but also book and media fandoms) go back to my early twenties, and my fannishness will be pried away from me only via the cold-dead-hands route. And when I fangirl, I fangirl hard. (I mean… look what happened with Star Trek. Started with fanfic… ended at the pro end, much to my own surprise.) My present great joy(s) are the Good Omens and Sandman series—not just for their smart structure, their beauty, and the felicity of their casting and look-and-feel, but because it’s the work of one or two good friends…  and few things make me as happy as when friends have a hit.

The writing business in general. News from all kinds of genres turns up in my timeline (since I’m a genre writer, after all). I often RT tweets pertaining to the professional end of life in the business: Writer’s Guild staffing boosts, SFWA and Writer Beware tweets, writing advice, and the like. Sometimes I point people at other advice. Sometimes I advise, if I’ve got something germane to say. I frequently RT other writers I admire; because, well, they’re admirable, yeah?

The media. Though I’m a screenwriter, I’ve also worked behind the scenes in production and PR along the way. The ongoing business of the media world and the way all the media are changing with time and technology is a constant fascination for me, and I RT news about that when the mood strikes me.

Comics. I’ve been a comics fan since about age nine—when what we now think of as the Silver Age was newly under way—and quickly got deeply invested in both DC and Marvel (which has made occasionally writing for both sides of the divide much simpler). I profoundly admire comics writers and comics artists and am delighted to be able to follow them on Twitter, and to RT what they’re up to. 

Medicine / medical and nursing issues: Before I was a published writer, I was a registered nurse with a specialty in psychiatric nursing. I may no longer be in practice, but the Art is still very important to me, and it turns up in my timeline. ETA: With this in mind, it’s impossible for me to avoid dealing as necessary with how the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Where I see untruths about it manifesting themselves, don’t be surprised if I get prickly about blocking the perpetrators. What you’re going to be seeing from me about this is necessarily going to be slanted toward the Irish point of view; but bad science is going to get called out if it crosses my path. It’s truth we’re going to need in dealing with this in the weeks and months ahead, not wishful thinking or politically-motivated fact-avoidance.

Food: I think it was C.S. Lewis (though I’m not sure) who once said that the fact that most of the things we must do to survive—such as eating—are pleasurable was proof that there was a God and He liked us. While none too sure of that line of reasoning, I’m happy to assert that food is fabulous, and good food doubly so. So my own recipes and Peter’s turn up on the timeline, usually with pictures (I livetweeted soup the other week, ffs). And I follow and RT a bunch of interesting food people—cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, reviewers, other unrepentant foodies. 

Travel: I love running around and seeing new places, either by myself or with Peter. In lieu of that (because sometimes one must sit still at home and get the damn writing done) I often RT glimpses of other people’s travels—partly for enjoyment’s sake, partly as notes-to-self. Train travel is particularly beloved, which is why I follow and RT various European rail companies, people who tweet about them and travel on them, and the Twitter feed @_DiningCar

My own books and screen work: I talk about these readily enough when asked, and since Peter and I have an online e-bookstore, when we have books on sale or new ones out, I tweet about those. Normally those tweets get pinned to the top of the profile at varying intervals. This is one of the ways we keep ourselves eating: thanks for your understanding.

So, the tl:dr; version of my Twitter feed: Eclectic. In these days when writers are urged to “brand their Twitters”, I can tell you without fear that mine is a timeline where that’s not going to happen. There are just too many things to be interested in and want to share.

If you follow me: This is not necessarily a guarantee that I’ll follow you back. If your profile suggests to me that you expect this kind of thing, expect me to take no particular notice of the expectation. I follow people back whose timelines suggest to me that they have more than one interest, and that at least one of these interests is other people.

Every week or so I go through the previous week’s followers to see whose timeline presently looks like something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of on a regular basis. Once I’ve followed you it’s relatively rare for me to unfollow, unless your timeline changes in some way that gets up my nose without warning. This happens occasionally, and all I can say about it is that my curation of my own timeline is oriented toward keeping me doing what I’m here to do: writing without undue interruption to service by outside influences.

Things that cause me to unfollow and/or block without delay: Cruelty. Pleasure in cruelty. Bigotry. Fascism and support for fascistic tendencies. Science denial. Other willful blindness to the proven realities of the world.

Also: my timeline is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and issues, so take note. My very first novel, written forty years ago, features a prince (sorta/kinda…) who rescues another prince who’s his love interest; that trilogy ends up in the most mixed (and poly) marriage you have ever seen. If you cherish hopes that I might have grown out of a mindset that allows for such possibilities, abandon them. That the world is catching up more quickly these days with the view that love is love strikes me as a positive development, rather than otherwise. If you’ve got trouble with that, it would be an unkindness to allow my timeline to be inflicted on you.

I don’t bother with muting. If I find someone in my timeline tiresome or annoying, I’m not going to simply reduce their nuisance value to me while leaving them still able to bother people who’re following me. I block early and often. Life’s too short to do otherwise.

Other notes: If I’m sharing material that might be triggering to people, I usually remember to tag it as such. If I miss, let me say in advance that I’m sorry.

Also: sometimes—the times being what they are—I react to tweets or events in the political mode. If you mistakenly believe that writers/artists should confine themselves to expressing their political thought in their fiction, you’re not going to find me giving any credence to that position… so save yourself some time and don’t bother following me to start with. My belief is that responsible adults in the 21st century pay attention to (at the very least) their local politics, and ideally also pay attention to what’s going on a lot further afield. (And I find this useful in my writing work as well; geopolitics is a matter of deep interest to me, because why invent, or reinvent, what already exists?) My impatience with those not paying sufficient attention will sometimes break cover. Just so you know.

Anyway: if you’ve read this far, thanks for your patience. Follow me for a bit and see what you make of the experience. You’re welcome on the journey!

Looking for my main website or specific info about my work? Check DianeDuane.com.

Book series info: YoungWizards.com | MiddleKingdoms.com

Like the mug in the illustration? I do assorted CafePress stuff mostly for my own pleasure, but other people sometimes express an interest, so there are other versions of the mug: “…people like me”, “artists like me”, “gamers like me”, “scientists like me…”. (The original sentiment is via the redoubtable @scalzi, but I’m in complete agreement.) Have a look over here: Random Swag. (Sorry if the structure of the store is a bit shambolic at the moment: CafePress’s store-management software is unnecessarily byzantine in its complexity, and every time I think I’ve gotten to grips with it, it gets the better of me in some unexpected way. Dammit.)

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