A decade ago I was in a Scottish Highland cottage writing my first novel. I didn’t get out much. My internet connection was a dial-up modem that sounded like a wheezy Dr Who creation. Submitting work was hard copy and a stamp, every time.
Today, it’s different. I write on a laptop with instant connectivity, and think twice about sending work to anyone who demands it in hard copy. (Not poetry, though. Poetry still seems to need a soft pencil and an old-fashioned piece of paper. It belongs to the old times. But I think I have a split brain on the poetry/prose divide.)
And now Twitter. Moving back south, I looked for the best way to learn quickly about the publishing industry. Only one of my friends used it: a slick journo with an iphone (@lambertvictoria). She persuaded. I tried. My life changed.
Not all at once. I did the usual Twitter virgin thing: nosing around celebrities’ accounts, following some, running away from others. It was like paddling in a vast river, and the deeper I went in, the more I heard going on.
Before Twitter, literary agents and publishers were mythical beasts who lunched hard and wore flamboyant glasses. Now I discover that they are in turns funny, profound, well-dressed, sweary and enthusiastic about writing. Not one of them is boring. Of course, that is the rather wonderful logic of Twitter: I can create a world populated by people I choose. Boring? I give them a few tweets but then I’m off. I don’t have to explain.
I admit I joined Twitter with a cynic’s aim of learning about the publishing business for research. What a fool. I have immersed myself in more online wit than I thought possible: it is like being electroplated with jokes. Most of the people who make me laugh are not professional comedians. They are generous tweeters, who notice when I reply, and sometimes smile back.
As a writer, Twitter has taught me brevity. OK, clearly it’s failed, because this blog is for everything I can’t fit there, but you know what I mean. It has taught me the value of intelligent comment in a general grumble. Like a favourite newspaper, a Twitter feed can be tweaked until it basically resembles your own prejudices, and seeing them confirmed every day is a smugly virtuous circle. I meet poets, novelists, musicians, lost friends, sleepless mothers and the odd nutter. It’s a different world. I love it.Follow @isabelwriter