In my day job as a protestant minister, writing is interactive. I know my audience, so as I prepare, I often have one or two of them in mind. I know the basic shape of their lives and easily and which will have to be explained. Though I write the sermon in private at home, the audience is always in my mind. When I deliver the sermon, the reaction affects the way I read it, and sometimes changes the text. After a service, people will sometimes engage in an in-depth conversation about what I wrote.
Fiction writing is a lot more solitary. I have no idea who the audience is going to be; I don’t see them reading it; I don’t get comments back. Once a month I will take one piece of a story to a writers group. There I finally get to hear whether the character’s action made sense, whether the setting is believable, whether the arc of the story is interesting. The discussion tends to be technical, but at least I hear a little of what people think of what I wrote.
I started a Twitter account because my publisher told me that an on-line presence will help sell books. What I discovered was that I could get a quick reaction to my thoughts. If I got “retweeted” or “favorited” my words touched a nerve. If my blog get a visit, I knew my words resonated. When I ran across a tweet that expressed something important or at least interesting, I would retweet it, perhaps comment on it, and if I then got followed, we were into a conversation. What I discovered was a quick way to learn what burning questions are on folks minds right now.
Yes, there is lots of promotion on twitter. Yes, there is stuff to avoid and lots to filter. Yes, you can spend all day there. But in a kind of work that can be isolated, it is a way to connect to other people, to hear a response and learn what resonates. Not that I am going to change my writing by what I see this moment on Twitter, but the ancient craft of storytelling was interactive, and tweeting is one way to recover that.