Monday, 28 February 2011

The perils of being so busy you'd eat cardboard if it was offered.

Hi, hi, hi.

I'm busy. And it's not that I mind being busy, on the upside it keeps me out of mischief, it keeps me off the streets and it keeps me quiet ... almost.

[If you're sick of hearing me mumble on about how busy/tired/stressed I am right now ... imagine what it's like for James who has to live with me!]. ;-)

Apart from that mumbling and grumbling being busy has a few other side-effects ... which, in the interests of full-blogging-disclosure I thought I'd share with you ... I'm sure you're just the same ... hopefully ...

Side Effect 1: Absent Mindedness.
  • Yesterday I very nearly put a container of salt in the fridge.

Side Effect 2: Postponing lunch until you're so hungry you'd eat cardboard.

  • This happened one day last week and a quick, desparate scan of the fridge for something speedily edible failed.
  • So I turned to microwavable tinned delicacies. Specifically these which James had sneaked into the supermarket trolley a few weeks ago:

I love you 3rd & Bird. A great deal. But boy-oh-boy does your pasta taste like a warm corrugated cardboard in bland tomato sauce.

[p.s: Kirsty - don't let the little windmill shapes sway you! Save your money and eat a box instead.]

Once again I'm reminded of the importance of making my lunch the night before. When I suddenly realise how hungry I am it's always such a relief to find something ready and waiting for me in the fridge.

Just so long as it's not a container of salt [See Side Effect 1].

Side Effect 3: Stir-craziness - leading to rash and embarrassing actions.

  • I spent much of yesterday indoors, sat at a table, repeatedly embossing, punching and sticking pieces of card to other pieces of card for a magazine project.
  • When I finished and began tidying the remains of that project away .. ready for the next one ... I spotted a scrap on the floor which called out for me to pick it up and do somehting embarrassing with it.
  • So I did:

I think I'm rocking the 'haughty WW2 pilot' look. Either that or the 'mad woman who's been breathing in too much paper dust'. I'll let you decide ...

[If you're wondering where you've seen me with a 'tache before ... it's probably this you're thinking of].

Side Effect 4: You really can't fit everything in you meant to do plus, as if you had nothing better to do, you decide to do a random procrastinating blog post .. like this one.

A while ago I said I'd announce the winner of my Tips for the Twitter-curious giveaway today:

I did meant to do it in a post of its own etc etc and I meant to write out all the names of those who entered but ... apparently I'm too busy [have I mentioned that?]... so instead I just checked back through the comments and links left by those who blogged about my class ... put the number in the Random Number Generator ... it gave me No.2 and No.2 was .... Rebecca E. Parsons.

Thanks for your support Rebecca - I'll be in touch so I can set the bird collage free and headed your way.


OK then ... I've got a Month in Numbers post to write, while watching Glee and here you are trying to distract me by keeping me here, blogging this nonsense.

Busy-busy people. Busy, busy!

See you tomorrow.

Julie :-)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Christy Tomlinson's She Art Workshop

Hi, hi, hi.

After teaching the Tips for the Twitter-curious class earlier this month and after spending my working week sitting in on someone else's studies ... I've enrolled myself in a classof my own choosing!

It's Christy Tomlinson's She Art Workshops ... and it looks like a lovely place to rest my weary head in someone else's arty hands for a few weeks:

You can read more about it here but - in brief - it's a mixed media class which I thought might keep me inspired to create and experiment with messy art techniques and backgrounds.

Plus it's the first class I've seen - since taking Dina Wakley's classes at Art From the Heart last year - which has eally grabbed me and felt like my kind of creativity [ie. expressive and imperfect, with every chance of messiness and a high risk of staining an item of clothing in the process!]

BTW: I'm in no way affiliated to this class! It just looks like it's going to be good so I'm telling you now ... before it's too late to sign up. Registration closes on the 27th.

I've already got two friends on board ... so if you too decide to join in let me know and I'll keep my eyes peeled in class for you - apparently there's a forum and dedicated space for us to chat and share our efforts.

With four deadlines to meet and a four day break in the country to fit-in over the next week and while feeling slightly under-par at the moment ... there's no way I'll be keeping up with the class. But that's OK, I'll catch up sometime or other ...

In the meantime I'll just sit back and enjoy the fact that someone will be teaching me something they're good at.

And that's very near the top of my list of favourite things to do in the world!

I'll let you know how I get on ... don't forget to let me know if you sign-up too.

Julie :-)


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Art Journal Challenge: Weeks 5 & 6

Hello you. Yes, you.

How's your weekend been?

Mine began with some fabulous stand-up comedy, then included a new pair of boots and a pair of shoes, some perfect cheesecake and lovely perfume; and it's about to end with this snippet of blogging followed by some sifting through magazines for interesting things to cut out for my journals. So ... all is good here.

There are 2 new topics for the weekly art journal challenge for me to catch up with on
UKStampers so I thought I'd show you my last two pages before I start any more.

Here's my response to 'What makes a perfect day?':

I couldn't pin it down to just one thing, but with blue sky, sunshine and good food I don't think you can go too far wrong can you?

The 6th prompt was to create something about 'Friends'. While flicking through a Jack Wills catalogue which was destined to be chopped up and cannibalised for interesting collagey bits ... I spotted two words which said everything I wanted to say about my friendships and thus inspired my whole page.

Which two deeply powerful and soul-reaching words were they? I'll tell you ...

Lounge + Pants:

Lounge pants! Such a great term and indeed a great addition to any comfy evening [I'm wearing a pair right now in fact. Zebra striped to be specific.]

But back to the art journaling ...

I knew I wanted to use those words along with a few of the images from the catalogue and so all I had to do was create a background for them ... and think of how to fit that very particular term on to the page:

And then it came to me: 'Friends are the people you wear lounge pants in front of'.

If you're unsure if someone is your friend, ask yourself 'would I wear my loungepants in front of them?'. If the answer is yes ... it's safe to say you can count them as a friend.

Disclaimer: This is true the majority of the time.

I know you can't always vouch for who sees you in them. Sometimes while you're still decked out in the pants-of-lounge non-friends drop by unnanounced, and sometimes you nip out to put something in the bin wearing them. And my postman has clapped eyes on mine from time to time [my lounge pants people! Keep your mind out of the gutter!], yet that doesn't really make me and
'The Bald One in the Van Who Knows Me' true friends now!

But overall ... I think my argument stands true!

Happy lounging.

I'll see you soon.

Julie x

p.s: If you're planning to join in with a Month in Numbers post of your own this month ... don't forget to jot down a few of those vital February statistics! eg: how many Valentine's cards you got ... etc

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Tag art-journal: A Few Freaky Friends

Hello, hello.

I've got some freaky friends to introduce you to today. It's my turn to create for Scattered Scarlet - the 3DJean blog today - and this is what I've been making with the new range of Onirie papers plus Shimmerz paints and spray inks:

I've been on a few Design Teams now and - for what it's worth - in my experience if you don't make things you love or would make anyway, even if you weren't on the DT ... then it can become too much of a 'job'. and who wants crafting to feel like hard work?

All of which is another subtle way for me to say I'm a little bit in love with this book I've made! [I'm going for honesty over modesty here ... ].

I've decorated each page of an old tag book I received in a stash swap last year before adding in some art-journal style figures.

If you want to see how I made the backgrounds then hop over to my DT post here for the full details:

Have you worked out what all the little metal tabs are from yet?

They're from the ends of tape-measures and, when you tend to make things that aren't tape measures out of things that are tape measures ... as I do ... then you end up with a little collection of spare tabs! They just happened to be in my 'bit bag' when I was making these pages and suddenly I found a use for them!

Now here's the first of the 'freaky friends' who are going to populate each page:

I like nothing more than sitting with a pile of magazines, catalogues and scraps of paper on my knee ...

and seeing what - or who - leaps out at me:

I'll share some more freaks with you when I've made them!
I found a lovely mountain goat on Saturday who's just desparate to sprout wings and be added to my circle of friends ...

Don't forget to visit me at Jean's and I'll see you soon.

Julie :-)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Twitter-curious giveaway: full details

Hi, hi, hi.

For those of you sick of me harping on about Twitter I'm almost done. Hang on in there.

[I'm guessing there's a least a couple who couldn't wait judging by the drop of 2 or 3 blog followers. However, since I began the classes my Twitter followers increased by 100 ... so it's all swings and roundabouts and my ego's just to say battling through! ;-)]

Anywho ...

As I mentioned back at the beginning I'm offering a handmade, stitched paper collage, like those available in my etsy shop, as a prize for one of the Twitter-curious amongst you.

This is what's on offer:

A few birds plus a simple message. Seems to add up to my entire life's philosophy really. Like birds. Be happy. Fly free. Wear pink dresses ...

And it [the collage, not the pink dress] can be yours if:

  • You share a link to Tips for the Twitter-curious class on your blog.

Clearly I'm asking for this as it will help bring attention to my own blog and my love of writing and sharing and teaching but also ... I hope that in sharing the tips with your existing blog network, you'll draw in some of the Twitter-curious who you already know ... and who already know and like you and what you have to say. And then, if they pick up the Twitter habit too, your network will expand naturally and you'll take familiar people with you.

  • I believe I also rashly said somewhere that you could even enter by tweeting about it!

I say 'rashly' not because I don't want you to spread the word through Twitter [that would be dumb of me considering the nature of the class!] but ... but I'm not sure how I can keep track of all of those of you who already have!

So, to be eligible:

  • Please leave me a comment on this post letting me know if you have tweeted a link to Twitter-curious it at any point in the class. I'll trust you!
  • If you've already blogged it and left me a comment earlier - I'll go back over the comments, I'll seek out your name and I'll post it in the comments beneath this post too. Unless you get there before me and want to be sure I don't miss you!
  • If you don't see your name there before the deadline ... please remind me.

Deadline = 00:00 GMT - on Sunday 27th February. I'll draw a winner at random sometime on the 28th.


Ok then, that's all I've got on Twitter for now. Unless I'm actually on Twitter, because then I'm all about the Twitter ... but it's really over to you ...

I've held your hand, willingly, for the last 3 weeks and you know where I am if you need me, but for now ... I think it's time you flew the nest:

Tweet well and tweet often my Curious-chicks.

Julie :-)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 9: Last minute 'How To's + the final verdict

Well, hello again.

This is it, the final post in my Tips for the Twitter-curious series. If you've just found me, fear not, you can check out all the previous 'lessons' here and there's no need to feel you've missed anything or need to hurry to 'catch-up' nothing is time-sensitive ... and I don't think Twitter is going anywhere anytime soon and that's where all of your true 'learning' will come from!

For those of you who've been following the classes ... firstly: thank you. Each tweet and retweet, each blog post and blog comment, each Facebook link and Like has meant most appreciated.

I had an inkling that there were enough people out there who'd welcome an easygoing Twitter introduction and so I'm happy to have been proven correct [well, who doesn't like being right?!]. And the fact that many of you really did find it as useful as I hoped has made it so worthwhile!

And ... secondly:

I am so very impressed by how many of you have created new accounts and breathed life into an old one after embracing your inner Twitter-curiousity and following along with the lessons.

I'm so proud of you - and me for that matter!

It'd be nice if I'd been on a commission for every newbie who signed up ... especially as seeing how just yesterday the rumours began that Twitter could be sold to Google or Facebook for around $10billion!

But rather than hold out for that, I'll get on with the task in hand: tying up some loose ends and attempting to address some of the points raised after I tweeted for items to include in this post.

A question of Retweeting

  • I do have a question about retweeting. How do you add text before the RT'd information? I've seen people comment before the RT but haven't been able to figure out how to do that. I'm sure it's super simple and I'm just not seeing it, but this is a whole new world. Rebecca - @This Present Life
My quick answer to this [which I've already tweeted to Rebecca] is that, as far as I know, the only way is to copy and paste the text from the original tweet into a new one. Here's a real Twitter-life example ...

The splendid @kirstyneale posted this:

Which was then copied over into a new tweet by @thegreengal who also added in the additional phrase "V pretty" beforehand:

While easy enough, this method of RTing does involve several more steps than simply hitting the 'Retweet' button.

However, it does have some advantages as, in adding in your own opinion etc with the tweet, it can give your followers a clue as to why you're bothering to RT it, and therefore why they might care to read it. ie. Gabrielle clearly wanted her folowers to know that she found Kirsty's project pretty!

Iif you do give this method a try, make sure to:

  • add the all important letters 'RT' in there - to make it clear they're not your words; plus
  • remember to copy and paste the original tweeter's @ username into your new tweet too, to givecredit to the original author.

A question of shrinking links.
As with all my 'advice' to date ... I have no idea if I do things the easiest, simplest or most appropriate way. I'm just passing on what I do, as that's all I can confidently say works!

  • I need to know how to add long web links if it's poss? Hannah - @whoisHannahB
  • I would like to know how do you put a link to a blogpost with a short lettered link? Nic - @nichohn

Good question and one I'd not thought to cover. But, clearly, when you've only got 140 characters per tweet you don't want to take up the majority of your space with a long URL / link, so you need to shorten it first:

  • There are other places you can go to to shorten URLs but I use the site
  • It's simple. It's free. And I find that web address so memorable and therefore useful!
  • You can sign up for an account with them if you want it to keep a record of the links you've made previously [if you want to find them again] or gather statistics on the number of clicks the links have etc. I have an account - but it's not necessary.

To use

  • Copy the link you want to use;
  • Paste your link into the blue box;

  • Click the 'shorten' button;
  • Copy the new short link it created for you;
  • Paste it into your tweet.

And here's one I made earlier:

[btw: clicking the image above will take you to those intriguingly shaped insoles. If Ijust forewarn you that they're rather suprisingly anatomical in shape ... you can judge for yourself whether or not to clikc on it. Don't say I didn't warn you ...].

A question of the darkside
Way back in Lesson 2 - when I suggested that you should aim to personalise your profile image and background soon after opening your account- I raised the issue of SPAM accounts and how you'll want to reassure people you contact on Twitter that you are genuine. The following suggestion lets me add to those ideas:

  • Maybe put what to do if you receive spam/nasty tweet. K - @Lady_K_Black
When you gain a new follower and you click on their profile to find out more about who they are and why they might have chosen you to follow - if you don't see any regular kind of chatter or conversation in their timeline, or if it simply consists of tweets saying 'Look at this!' with a link ... chances are they're just spammers.

You do not have to have anything to do with them and, in theory, they can't actually get to you in any real way ... however ...
  • If you're not comfortable with them following you - if their content is inappropriate to you and you simply don't want them anywhere near your account you can easily put a block on them or report them;
  • I generally always block accounts which have shiny, well-endowed, ladies in bikinis as their profile photo!
  • Click on the little cog icon in their profile;
  • Then select an option from the drop-down list:

*For the record I'm not unfollowing the above account! It was the least personal account I came to when looking to create the screenshot!*

As for receiving a 'nasty tweet' element ... fortunately this kind of thing hasn't touched me personally, but I do know it can happen and it's definitely worth mentioning . The best place to seek answers on this is on Twitter's own help pages which are situated in a slightly less-than-obvious place!
  • Click on your username in the top right corner;
  • Select 'Help' from the list which drops down;
  • There's a category called 'Report a Violation' which covers lots of tricky situations.
On a brighter note ...
If you still haven't taken the plunge .. that previous paragraph isn't going to move you in the right direction and I'm absolutely refusing to end on that downbeat topic so ....

I'm going to make one last-ditch attempt to persuade you to consider becoming a Twitter-ite. But, after 8 posts on the topic from me, you'll be tired of hearing my voice ... so here's a selection of the many lovely responses there've been to the class: *sitsbackreadytogetallwarmandglowy

  • Hello Twitter world! I'm finally joining in thanks to the #twittercurious e-class with @notesonpaper! So helpful! - Ginger Burns- @gingersburns
  • Thanks for the excellent Twitter tutorial! Slowwwly getting the hang of things. Jenn Hildebrand- @loveamelierose
  • This is the best series I have seen for those who don't (and even some who do) Tweet!!! I will be sharing this on my magazine for sure!!! Rebecca E Parsons - @RebeccaEParsons
  • to tweet or not to tweet. enjoyed this post by julie kirk...for you non-twitter getters, this is for you! Kelly Rae Roberts - @kellyraeroberts

The Final Verdict

Back when I made my opening argument in 'To Tweet or not to Tweet' I said I was making a case for Twitter. And I think I have. and, not only has it not been thrown out of court ... I'm happy to say that for many in the jury ... Twitter has been found not-guilty.

  • Not guilty on the count of being as baffling as once feared;
  • Not guilty on the count of being impenetrable and unmanageable;
  • Not guilty on the count of being a unproductive networking tool;
  • Not guilty on the count of being a pointless, impractical waste of time;
  • Not guilty on the count of being a impersonal, technological way of connecting with friends.

But, if you voted 'guilty' or you're still a Twitter-skeptic ... well, that's fine with me. I won't be barring the doors of my blog to you!

I understand that it really isn't for everyone.

There's a lot of time and attention grabbers out there online and I'm not sure that if someone was hosting a 'tumblr' or 'pinterest'-curious class I'd be on board with it ... even if it was free!

So today .... how about we just let Twitter walk from court a free man and live and let live? And if you have any issue with that ...

... you can tweet me about it.


Oh and ... if I haven't said it before ... thank you. You've been a wonderful jury. 12 good tweeters and true.

Julie x


p.s: I haven't forgotten about the giviaway I promised at the start - for those of you who've been kind enough to mention the class online. I'll be posting more details tomorrow - there's still plenty of time to enter - I just wanted to keep it separate from today's post.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 8: Embracing the Weird of Twitter

Hello ... you made it back here then I see?

last time was a 'sit-up-straight-look-smart-and-pay-attention' post then today is the equivalent of a non-uniform day.

You know the ones? Where you get to wear your own clothes on the last day of term? So you wear tight black jeans with cowboy boots and bat earrings rather than your everyday Catholic Comprehensive school uniform? Anyone? No? Just me then .... [But if, by chance, you are sat there in tight black jeans and bat earrings ... I *need* to see a photo!]

If you dropped in expecting sweets, crisps, those biscuits with the pretty icing and hyperactivity-inducing fizzy drinks ... I'll be handing those out at the bottom of the post. #secretploytokeepyoureadinguntiltheend

So let's leap from Lesson 7's 'sublime' ... straight into the ridiculous:

Throughout these lessons I've focused a lot on the practical uses of Twitter and encouraged you to build up a network of both useful contacts, friends and loved ones ... but, if after all that, you'd like to add a few quirky members to your Twitter family then, believe me when I tell you you can pretty much find ANYONE on Twitter ...

Following the fantastical.

I can't quite remember where or when I first found @Jesus ... I think I spotted him in a Retweet by someone else which had made me laugh... and so, as is the tradition ... I became a Follower:

Then, in return ...

...well, let me just say, there can be few more defining moments in an online life that the moment you receive an email notification informing you that "Jesus Christ - Carpenter, healer, God, is now Following you on Twitter". I mean, that's not something you read every day is it?

[Note: However ... I've just looked at
@Jesus's profile page it now says he isn't Following anyone ... so where did that email come from ....??? I guess I'll never know ... ] Anyways ...

... what I'm hoping to point out here is that for every genuine account held by a 'real' person, there's at least the equivalent of impersonators ... and funny ones at that.

Lately I've been enjoying the tweets of the 140 year old Laura Ingalls Wilder as she struggles through another long, cold winter on the prairie:

If Half Pint's not your girl ... then you can just as easily follow the Queen, Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, Barbie ... because tweeting's what the great and good are doing these days!

Having said that ... it's not just the good, so be careful out there:

An email telling you Voldemort's following you? Now that's got to make the heart quicken!

It'd probably be as startling as the time I was tweeted at by the Stalking Velociraptor ....:

One day last spring, @KirstyNeale and I were innocently discussing how the danger of taking up the latest trend for wearing capes, was the tendency for them to restrict your arm movements giving you the appearance of what I termed 'little Velociraptor arms'. Several hours later the Stalking Velociraptor - who must have heard us taking his name in vain - tweeted me to alert me to the fact he was peeking out of the bushes and had heard us!

Crazy moments like this - like a Velociraptor who likes spying on people who use his name almost as much as he likes coffee - all add to the rich tapestry that is Twitter! And, one can only imagine these people are hosting these accounts for no other reason than it's fun!

Now .... there's a thought .... that would be some advanced homework for me to set you wouldn't it? Who would your Twitter alter-ego be? Who could you convincingly tweet as .... ? Mmmm that could be revealing ....

Find your own funny.

Apart from these odd characters who pop-up to boggle the mind and brighten your Timeline, don't forget to search Twitter for the people, programmes, publications and blogs etc which you already find funny.

I follow several comedians and comic writers I admire. Luckily, their tweets often reflect their comedic talents, although the temptation for them must be to keep all their material for future projects!

Finally, I foster my love of all things overheard by following a few accounts which, like I often do, tweet the results of their eavesdropping. Such as the Overheard Newsroom:

I think we should now add 'jokes' and 'overheard snippets' into the category of forms of writing which work particularly well in a tweet - as discussed in Lesson 8.

OK then ... as with every task I've set you throughout this series, this has to be all about tailoring Twitter to you:
  1. Have a search around for some light relief.
  2. Check out the people you find funny.
  3. Leave a comment here sharing the quirky characters you already follow - so we can all have look - other people recommendations and Retweets are the best way to naturally uncover the weird tweeters who are consistently worth Following.
  4. If you're feeling creative - let us all know who your Twitter alter-ego could be! Or ...
  5. ... if you're feeling brave ... you could strike up a conversation with an infamous tweeting villain! There's bound to be more than Voldemort and a Velociraptor out there ... so just take care ....
Well, then, that's almost it for Tips for the Twitter-curious! I'll be back on Friday with my final post which will be a general round-up of loose-ends plus I'll be giving more details on the collage giveaway [entry is for those who've blogged about the class]. I already have a few things planned but I'd also like to know ....

What would you like to see in the final post?
  • are there any questions you still have about Twitter? I can't promise to answer them ... but between all those on the Twitter-curious list ... and with Twitter at our disposal ... we could begin to find a solution I'm sure!
  • Have you found an account who you think we should all follow?
  • Is there a category of people to follow that I've overlooked?
  • etc etc etc whatever you'd like to bring up!

Right, I'll leave you to go and get your Twitter-funny on ... and I'll see you back here on Friday.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Art Journal Challenge: Weeks 3 & 4

Hi, hi, hi.

If past history is anything to go by, I will actually succeed in responding to each of the 52 weekly prompts in the UKStampers Art Journal Challenge ... I just might not do them all in the designated week!

I managed the photograph myself each week of 2009 for 'My Year in Outfits' challenge I set myself ... I just didn't quite finish each page in the same week:

Weeks 25 & 26

And when, during the same year, I followed along with Emily Falconbridge's '52Q - A Year of Mini Art Journaling' ... I used to save up several prompts and work on more than one at a time:

Weeks 39 & 40

So either I am either truly able to comfortably dedicate myself to 52 full weeks on the same thing ... or else 2009 was a fluke ... The Year of the Year Long Project! I guess we'll find out in 46 weeks time when the UKStampers challenge is completed!

For now though, I have responded to 4 of the 6 prompts so far. Go me!

Week 3's prompt was to write about school, use lined paper and splash on some ink.

Lined paper? Hello favourite product! Splash ink around? I'm in! Write about school? ... not so much.

While reading through other people's delighted responses to the prompt I just had a complete block. Seeing how much the others had enjoyed the chance to reminisce about schooldays suddenly feltquite alien to me.

Don't get me wrong, school wasn't the worst time in my life ... [even though it kind of led up to it!] and if you'd asked me a week before the prompt was released if I could tell you ten lighthearted things to say about it ... I'd have been convinced that I could. And I could. I just didn't want to!

Just like when I was at school I almost went ahead and played along ... because I didn't want people to think I was trying hard to be different. But even at school I managed to fight those feelings and stay true to myself ... so sticking to my own ideas in a page in a painty book was really nothing in comparison!

I'm happy with it. And in it's own subdued, smudgy, nothing-quite-clear way ... it's kind of a fitting response to the 'where-did-you-come-from-and-why-now?' feeling I had about making it!

Week 4 was much easier! To write about childhood sweets. But, call me awkward, I ignored the bit about childhood ... in fact I did the exact opposite:

I'm still getting used to how the fibrous paper in the journal reacts to paint and ink - even after sealing it with gesso, but I do rather like some of the texture which shows through.

I haven't yet quite conquered stamping onto it - below you might just be able to work out the phrase 'Trick or Treat' running down the left side of the page? The colour inks I used just blended in and I was too afraid of spoiling the whole page to go over it in black:

'Trick or Treat' is a fitting phrase for the bars of chocolate with salt I like. The chocolate is dark and velvety and the hints of salt take the edge off the creaminess at just the right level ... most of the time ... until every now and again, a few minutes after I've eaten some, a grain of rocksalt just re-appears from nowhere ... and that's not quite the same rich experience!

There are 2 new prompts ready for me to tackle when I get the chance. Neither of which, at the moment, appear to be having a detrimental effect on my mental health ... so that's a bonus.

I'll bring my pages to show you when they're done and you can judge for yourself!

Until then, I'll see you tomorrow for what will be the penultimate Tips for the Twitter-curious lesson.

Julie :-)

Monday, 7 February 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 7: The Skill and Poetry of Twitter

Hi again.

Welcome to the final week of 'Tips for the Twitter-curious' - my last-ditch attempt to convince you all to give tweeting a go. OK, maybe not all of you ...

If I'd found a sure-fire way to brainwash everyone who reads my blog into my way of thinking ... I'd probably have used it for far more evil gains than tempting you onto the Twitter-side! Plus, if I haven't convinced you after the 6 posts I've written so far ... I doubt it's ever going to happen.

So this week I'm taking a more laid back approach rather than a full-on attempt to plead the case ... again.

Wednesday's post will have a bit of a fun end-of-term theme but I'm starting today by going into out and out, subjective, word-nerd mode by looking at how Twitter also satisifies my love of alll things language-y! So if Social Media analysis crossed with Literary Criticism isn't your thing ... you're just going to have to indulge me ...

It's a textbook case of 'form' influencing 'content' ... no, seriously, bear with me ... it is!!
l haven't [yet] researched into the development of Twitter and why they decided to set the '140 characters' per message rule. Therefore I'm not sure how far the developers were aware of the impact that this structure was going to have on the atmosphere on the site. But it is that space-limit which, to my mind, has most certainly had the biggest influence over what gets written and how it is received.

So... the Form ...
As we know, the form consists of short, 140 character messages, the approximate length of an average sentence.

Influences the Content ...
So, what are you going to be able to write in that space? It's not going to be a major thesis is it?

By the nature of their form your Tweets ...

  • Cannot be an in depth, formal look at anything;
  • Have no room for the usual niceties of polite conversation - who has room to waste five of the 140 characters to spell out 'Dear_'?!
  • Probably won't be too personal - as, unless you protect your tweets, you are aware of the potential for anyone to see what you've written.

Therefore an informal conversational [rather than true-confessional] style has developed to suit the form we are restricted to writing in. So what?

Remember back to my initial 'Tweet or not To Tweet?' post where I practically marched you up to Twitter's house by the scruff of your neck, knocked on it's door for you and demanded you join up so you could keep in contact with people you miss? Well, it was this lovely, easy, informal style which people seem to naturally fall into while on there that made me want to spread the word so emphatically!

As I mentioned before, I don't suggest that once on twitter you'll never email or meet-up with a friend ever again! But it's speed and style make it such an accessible way for you to offer people a quick 'in' to your personality ... and you to theirs.

It's very much like being in the same room as someone you're comfortable with and then 'thinking out loud' to them!
Do you know what I mean? It's how you act with loved ones and friends isn't it?

You say those random things which, while mainly being entirely pointless ... add to the particular 'you-ness' that other people come to know/love about you. It most often happens when they're in your actual physical company and they get to see all sides of 'you'.

But, if you can't be together some of these 'moments-of-you' can go missing as they're often the kind of thing you'd never dream of writing down in an email and sending out to your entire address book!

Case in point .... here's something entirely random I'd had on my mind which I ended up 'tweeting-out-loud':

I don't know ... maybe that is slightly too much information about me for some of my Followers ... but for others? Well, maybe they felt like they got a bit more 'Julie-ness' from it!

And, be rest assured, Joel McHale's nose's place in my affections is not often the kind of thing I send news of to my email contacts ...

OK then, now we've all got that clear ... let's move away from the informal qualities Twitter nurtures so well ... and go on to look at other kinds of writing which suit the same form.

A bit more highbrow than my 'nose' tweet!

The short form is also a great medium through which to read and share quotations:

There are hundred of accounts dedicated to all kinds of quotes so there's bound to be something which appeals to you amongst them. Whether you go on make art / journal / scrapbook etc based on a quote you find there or whether you simply read and absorb them for their own worth ... it's a great way [as I keep stating] to have inspirational things come and seek you out!

Similarly, a tweet's the perfect length for interesting definitions, such as these from @wordspy:

According to its Twitter-bio @wordspy is "devoted to "lexpionage," the sleuthing of new words and phrases" ... which naturally gets me rather excited too! [However, while love that definition of the 'Velcro dog' ... I prefer mine non-stick ... and 100 metres away.]

Finally, pithy philosophical words are also an ideal size for tweeting and you can find pretty much any philosopher you like on there ... including the long deceased. I don't think they run their own accounts though ...

One of my consistently favourite philosophical figures I enjoy seeing in my Twitter Timeline is [the late]Tommy Howells:

His bio explains that he was "A teacher, thinker, and friend at Whitman College from 1938 through 1987. Here you'll find quotes recorded by his students during class." And I believethe Twitter account is run by his son, who wanted to pass his father'swords on.

I honestly can't remember how or where I discovered this account, probably on one of my Follower-hopping escapades, but it just shows how there's hidden gems out there just waiting to be Followed and have their words and thoughts reach a wider audience.

So - if you're still with me ... - we've looked at a few ways in how the form of Twitter has effected the use and how it suits other pre-existing writing forms ie. definitions and quotations.

Now let's look at a unique way in which tweeters have begun giving old punctuation marks a new meaning in a particular method which I remember baffling me when I first began!

The world of Twitter's a stage ...
The super-short writing form has spawned the everday use of something equivalent to written stage-directions you'd usually only see in the manuscript of a play.

Let's start with our old friend '#' - the hashtag we first met back in
Lesson 4. Besides being used to tag tweets of a similar topic, they are also used like an 'aside' - an extra on top of their dialogue in the play, additional words spoken directly into the audience.

Such as this:

There was just no room in this tweets for me to explain that when I saw the intriguingly labelled truck - called Julie - I wondered whehter those care-instructions could be applied to me too! So I squashed it all into a hashtag aside.

It's really hard for me to explain these sufficiently ... so just keep your eyes open for when you see such a thing being used .. or give it a go yourself. It's basically another way to condense everything you wanted to convey into that tiny white space!

And so is the stage-direction format which has taken to involving '*' asterisks. Author @maureenjohnson is great at using them to create a feeling that you're inside her daily life's story:

Again, there's no room to fully describe what you're trying to act out in your tweet ... so people have taken to indicating actions by surrounding them with asterisks. eg. right now my actions would read: *tries to make sense while describing odd, yet fun, new uses for punctuation*.

And while this all might seem very alien if you're not using Twitter yet .. DON'T LET IT PUT YOU OFF! It's really not necessary to use them ... it's just something I find fascinating and wanted to bring up today.

*returns to her rightful place behind a book*.

In conclusion #becauseallproperessayshavetohaveone ...

Tweets are often informal by nature - not just in their content. But equally, it's a form which can easily, and rightly, be exploited to indulge in a love of words and language.

Ironically I could also have written, at length, about how much I enjoy the process of editing my thoughts down by trimming and snipping at an overweight sentence until it fits into such a tiny space ... but I'll spare you that essay ... for today anyway!

  1. If words are your thing ... have a look for some of your favourite writers to see if they have an account. Chances are they'll tweet in the style you've come to love.
  2. Begin following a few quote accounts;
  3. Have a go at using the # hashtag to fit more into a tweet;
  4. Give your Followers an indication of an action by using the ** asterisk method;

OK then, I think that's a long enough English Language seminar for you to have sat through for one day!

If you've fallen asleep at the back I promise that Wednesday's post will be lighter and shorter! But also more weird ...

See you then then!

Julie - @notesonpaper