Columns > Published on July 21st, 2023

Timeless Advice: Truths Too Good for TikToks and Tweets

Imagine Ray Bradbury drunk flame trolling on Twitter.

J.R.R. Tolkien stitching a TikTok video to dunk on a reviewer that one-star reviewed The Silmarillion.

Agatha Christie starting a private Discord Server just to make fun of industry professionals. 

We have set the bar really low these days. 

We have become desensitized to the noise and chaos on social media. Sure, it bothers us sometimes. Most of us manage it by blocking and muting or hiding words and ads. There are no expectations for quality or improvement. It's a broken toy and we're happy to play with it.

But is anyone ever inspired by something they read on twitter? Do creators save up their most profound, thoughtful advice and tweet it or make a reel on Instagram or record a TikTok? Sometimes. I mean, I see it once in awhile. A creator will have a burst of joy and tweet something that lifts everyone's heads and makes people smile. But it's rare. It's really, really rare. Scrolling through your timeline is such a mixed bag of thoughts. A mutual just experienced loss, so you offer some words of comfort, but then the next thing is a meme about some movie and then someone bitching about traffic, and pictures of people's pets, and then a random thing you wish you didn't know. Then you leave the app with this horrible brain fog so you can focus on meeting a writing deadline? Why do any of us do this to ourselves?

May I suggest an alternative?

Creators often give long interviews and say all these emotionally stirring, profound things we can think about for days and days, maybe even a lifetime. They might even inspire our careers and straighten our spines so we can walk in confidence. Would you like that?

I have been doing this on a regular basis and I want to share some with you now. I wrote a note for SubStack inspired by a powerful interview from Ethan Hawke that has greatly encouraged me:

Most of us really want to offer the world something of quality. Something that the world will consider good or important. And, that’s really the enemy. Because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that the world is an unreliable critic. —Ethan Hawke

Watch the whole thing. 

This mini documentary with Apple Music's Zane Lowe sits us down with Bon Iver's Justin Veron after the release of the band's album, iMi. In 2017, after the 22, A Million album, Vernon suffered a dark, psychological crisis of creativity and had an anxiety-induced breakdown where he wasn't sure if he would continue on his journey as a musician. In this documentary, he shares so much. There is all this vulnerability and actionable steps one can take if they find themselves in a similar dark place

I like when people get inspired. Because, when they get inspired, they usually have some sort of empathetic, euphoric feeling. That's the basis for Bon Iver, in general. Just a little town of people trying to be good. —Justin Veron

But it's this 8 minute "Diary of Song" feature from the New York Times about the collaboration of many talents behind one song, one fucking song, that will blow you away. It has so much to say about community, and honoring other people for their skills, respecting fellow inspired me YEARS ago and I have never forgotten it.

The Hollywood Reporter has a great series of round table discussions with all kinds of writers in different mediums. The one with Jordan Peele, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. Gordon, Aaron Sorkin, Anthony McCarten, and Faith Akin is a masterclass in building tension, writing endings, listening to your audience, and setting goals for the kind of messaging that goes into storytelling. 

I want to go back to Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby as well, both Ira Levin stories. For me, those movies were both extremely inspiring, because what they did within the thriller genre was this very delicate tightrope walk. That honored the protagonist in a way that you rarely see in the genre these days...A kind of weird dance between showing something weird and over-the-top and then showing how easily it can be placed within how weird reality is. —Jordan Peele

The PERSPECTIVE channel on YouTube is a profound resource. I watched a 45 minute video about Agatha Christie that unlocked how I read thrillers today. Obviously because I cut my teeth on Christie's books when I was pretty young. Now, when I'm reading a thriller, I pay close attention to the way the story influences my brain chemistry. The way Jennifer Hillier builds suspense toward the end of every chapter, or the way Gillian Flynn creates such unreliable female narrators, or when a thriller starts off with a dead body...all of this is due to the Agatha Christie Code discussed in this video

I believe the main reason Agatha Christie was so successful is because of the pattern of addiction that she creates in her readers through brain chemistry.

Of course everyone should be growing TedTalks on a regular basis.

The Poetry of Everyday Language will help writers develop their skill for dialogue and for listening to the music of language spoken by everyone; all peoples.

My value as a human being, has been questioned over and over again. And yet, there's beauty and connection in these marginal spaces. For people in the margins, language creates cohesion between us. The Story Begins. That "different" way of speaking is a secret door only some of us have access to. —Julian Delgado Lopera

Lastly, this interview with author James Baldwin is something all of us could study,  a chance to learn how to consider questions in an interview as opportunities to share meaningful responses. Might take some time to be as surefooted and confident as Mr. Baldwin.

James Baldwin author of Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Notes of a Native Son (1955)


The world is held together, really it is, held together by the love and the passion of a very few people. —James Baldwin

“Everyone you’re looking at is also you.”

“Nobody asked me to be a writer. You know, I asked for it. So I can’t really complain. It comes with the territory.”

“I write the essays, I write the books. And what people make of those things is not up to me."

If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: Spend some quality time listening to people who have left an indelible mark on the craft. They worked hard to build their legacy. Just as we are striving to make a difference in this world. It's not going to be through whatever social media app is the hottest at any given moment in time. That shit might be eternal, your Tweets might live longer than you do, but what do they say about your career? Your mark on this world. Listen to others around us sharing their stories so that we might learn, and grow, and improve our craft and the way we navigate the world.

About the author

Sadie Hartmann, “Mother Horror” reviews horror fiction for Cemetery Dance Online and Scream Magazine. She is a co-owner of a curated, horror fiction book subscription company called Night Worms. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, kids and Frenchie.

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