I'm rather embarrassed that it took me this long to work it out. I have a little bit of obsessive -compulsive disorder in me to go with the inner control freak that I accepted and embraced a long time ago. I can't tell you how much more I could have gotten done with my time if I'd realised this earlier.
It shows at work in the form of insanely complicated computer models which are far more extensive and detailed than needed. Not necessarily a bad thing, except I spend about three times as long on a job as anybody else. Still, they haven't fired me yet, so I'm going to call that a win.
Online, it shows as a determination to read all the tweets.
Like many newbie writers, I read the blog posts which tell you that you have to have an online presence; start now before you even have something to sell. You get infected with this sense of urgency, because you might be doing it wrong. It's all: Platform! Blog! Tweet! Do it now! And so the plan, devised on a computer with tick boxes and printed out and glued into a diary (because I'm that kind of scary person) includes Join Twitter. Develop an online web presence.
And there the compulsion sinks its claws in, because whenever I'm on the computer, it's nagging me that I haven't read all the tweets yet. It is a task uncompleted. I cannot tick the box and move on. I need to tick a completed box before I can move on. Seriously.
Now I'm not talking about all 200 million tweets per day, or whatever it is now, because I'm just a little bit nuts, not completely off my trolley. Just the tweets from the 270 some people that I follow. But even so, by definition it never ends. It's why I had to quit Farmville and Treasure Madness and make my facebook feed a game free zone. It's why I gave away my Playstation when gaming became more important than food or sleep. I find I seldom tweet myself, because I'm too busy reading all the tweets. And worse, still, they're not even fun tweets, because most of my feed is from follow backs. I am paralysed into inactivity by a giant wave of I am a writer, buy my book tweets, which I don't even enjoy reading, because the compulsion to read all the tweets is there. I can't tick the box and move on. I need to tick the box.
But this morning, I feel... I don't know, awake. Objective. Looking at my twitter feed, I've noticed that one person tweets exactly every half hour to ask a random question, like 'what's the last colour you painted your toenails?' When I check their page, these questions never result in interaction, never turn into a discussion. So what's their purpose?
I like using twitter to engage with people about their lives. I want to know about the thing their kids did that made them laugh, about their new puppy, about the joke their friend told them. Really, truly, I don't want to hear about the review of someone's book that I haven't read and don't plan to. Not any more. I guess I could buy every single book promoted by every single person that followed me as a means of building their list of followers, but I'd end up in one of those smart white coats with wraparound arms.
I'm not going to quit twitter, because I like following authors whose books I've loved, and I like talking to people like Hagelrat, Mhairie Simpson and Margie McNulty, people who are happy to chat, but I think I'm going to cut right back on the other stuff. People have every right to promote their stuff on twitter, but it isn't for me.
The same as this blog is just a diary that people can read if they want rather than a writer's promotional tool filled with platform building content, my twitter needs to be social and not driven by the great god, Platform. It's the only way to stay sane and enjoy writing enough to want to carry on.
I'll never read all the tweets, but now I know the task ahead of me. I beat Farmville. I beat Treasure Madness. I can beat this. And to that end, this is what it looks like where I live this morning:
Pretty, huh? No doubt my son will be taking his sledge out when he gets home from school. Are your kids having fun in the snow? I really would like to know.