To Tweet or Not to Tweet; No Longer a Question

Post Date: June 5th, 2010

The writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live.

— Flannery O’Connor

It’s official: I’m tweeting, but I promise not to reveal TMI, as in showering habits, political wrath, or pet panic. Well, okay, since he is this blog’s mascot, I am a wee bit panicked about Sonny boy. He swallowed a footlong piece of yarn and so we wait. Linear obstructions can wreak havoc in cats’ intestines. Apparently organic pumpkin is a starter solution: yeah, fiber! Cross your paws ‘n’ claws, please.

So, anyway, yeah, as I was saying: I’m tweeting. I’ve mocked the Twitter phenom before but let’s face it: the hero’s journey requires I research agents, and three agents who interest me are on Twitter. So I joined, and then, because I’m an obsessive writer with a need to speak, speak, speak, I tweeted.

Tweets have their place. I do, on occasion, think pithy thoughts of 140 characters or fewer. I’m talking epigrams, bumper stickers, witty retorts. Shakespeare sure as heck could tweet: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (Act 2, scene 5). 85 characters. Shazam!

Of course, if all the Bard did was tweet, then I seriously doubt we’d care much for his 140-character blasts. What lives is what moves us, and we are moved by experiences over time, not bits and bytes; by relationships, not drive-by hellos.

In prepping this blog, I wrote a rough draft on a legal pad. I considered theme and transition. Coherence, flow, and wholeness. I know some treat blogging like tweeting, but I think blog = essay. In its best form, each type of writing is a different type of skill.

To tweet, I think about monosyllabic diction versus polysyllabic, and I consider how fragments might better serve than sentences. I deal in active verbs since passive voice hogs characters. I know that’s not every tweeter’s concern, but if I’m going to do this, let’s do this well.

Writing gurus say THOU MUST TWEET in order to have a platform. If this mantra is true, then on top of my daily writing practice, email communications, Facebook posts, and blogging, I need to add another representative tag line to my day’s work. Read: more writing. Writers are writing more than ever, or, perhaps they’re writing less of what they wish to and more bits of the PR variety than they ever dreamed.

Since there are only 24 hours in the day, the ambitious writer must evolve to the times. She must start working in places not always conducive to quiet reflection (doctor’s offices, lines, delayed meetings), and she must start writing faster.

The secret is knowing when to pause and read very carefully what you just wrote versus just spewing. Today’s climate tempts one to spew all the time. My manuscripts and my blog are outposts for reflection. I go to both these places to mull and meditate. The first draft may be quick, but there’s sure to be more before I start publishing.

I believe I’ll tweet to blast, spout, update. We shall see. This blog will get much more of my quality time.

I wonder what Flannery O’Connor would say about tweeting. She did say, “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay.” Perhaps she’d understand if I kept the public apprised of my hairline and my gum health. Or perhaps she’d turn her face back to the wall and write for her three hours a day, uninterrupted, the works she was called to do: short stories, essays, and novels.

Methinks the computer screen is a bit too reflective of our own images. Like the mirror, mirror on the wall, we go there to find out who’s the fairest rather than get the darn thing done.

Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.

© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.

Elementary Prompts:

— This is your chance to design a bumper sticker for a car or a bike that says something about your personality or what you believe. Say what you have to say in 15 words or less.
— What is a familiar saying in your family, something people often say when something good, strange, bad, or important happens? Here are some examples of what we call proverbs: A penny saved is a penny earned; or, What goes around, comes around. Write down as many sayings as you can think of, and then choose one that is important to you and explain why.
— Imagine it is 20 years from now and you have a child of your own. What memory of today would you want to record for your son or daughter? Write that memory as specifically as you can, but, you only have 50 words to do it. How many details can you cram into 50 words?
— Do you know what Twitter is? If you do, what do you know about it? Why do you think people use it? Write down what you think is going on at Twitter. If you use Twitter, explain who you follow and what you learn about these people.
— Draw a picture of your favorite place outdoors. Then label every part of the drawing with a message. What is the sky saying? The sun? The trees? The birds?

Secondary & Adult Prompts:

— Design a bumper sticker for a car or a bike that says something about your personality or what you believe. Say what you have to say in 15 words or less. Or, Write about the a bumper sticker you have seen that is very memorable to you. Why does the message mean something to you?
— Families often share proverbs — sayings or idioms that capture a culture, a community, and aspects of life. What sayings do your family members invoke when something good, strange, bad, or important happens? Think of classic American proverbs such as A penny saved is a penny earned; or, What goes around, comes around. Write down as many sayings as you can think of, and then choose one that is important to you and explain why. Or, design your own proverb that captures your culture, your age group, or some other aspect of your life experience or community.
— Imagine it is 20 years from now and you have a child of your own. What memory of today would you want to record for your son or daughter? Write that memory as specifically as you can, but, you only have 50 words to do it. How many details can you cram into 50 words?
— Do you use Twitter? Why or why not? Why do you think people use it? If you use it, whom you follow and what do you learn from it? What tweets have you posted?
— Do you think Twitter encourages or discourages writing? Why?
— Is tweeting vain? Is Facebook posting vain?
— Based on your experiences with Twitter, devise your Top Ten Rules for Tweeting.

3 Comments

  1. bobmust says:

    I would fail bumper sticker 101, I’m afraid – not enough words for me.

    And any agents you come across, please share!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lyn:

    You have put tweeting in its proper place. May the tweet bird of happiness shower good fortune on your words in all formats.

    Archie

  3. Yes, Bumpersticker 101 is the hardest boot camp, methinks. And I wonder how many people can really do a tweet justice, knowing that.

    Thanks, Archie! I am ever the writing teacher and see this social networking as way people are writing more with a possibility of writing well, too.












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