However, as I looked around, I saw that all these writers were tweeting. Fiction writers, non-fiction writers, journalists. Malcolm Gladwell has an account for goodness’s sake.
So about a month ago I decided the time had come to conquer Twitter. I wanted to understand what everyone loved about it.
But even after I started to understand the basics—what is a retweet, what is a DM, how do I create a list—I didn’t get the appeal.
Until yesterday, when I read a book that changed my understanding of Twitter forever.
Yesterday, I finished a book called Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas, and for the first time, Mr. Zarrella helped me see Twitter’s deepest purpose.
Twitter, Facebook, and the other social networking sites spread ideas, and this is absolutely great news for a writer.
Whatever kind of writing you do, fiction, non-fiction, blogging, poetry, as a writer, your calling is to share ideas.
You share ideas about love, about the way a tree looks in the autumn light, about family, friendship, how a leader should act, what a man looks like when no one is looking, who a little girl grows up to be.
Writers share ideas about life.
And Twitter and Facebook make sharing those ideas today easier and faster than any period in human history.
The Problem with Twitter
Salesman are good and important and we need them, but don’t we need art, too? Don’t we need literature? Don’t we need words that create meaning and self-awareness?
I want to see more writers on Twitter. I want to see writers who live fully in the moment. Who notice a child sitting on his father’s lap. Who take deep breaths and say courageous things to strangers.
Writers who wake people sitting in front of their computers, make them look around, and say, “I’m thankful to be alive.”
In his 2010 TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson said:
The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience, one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you’re present in the current moment, when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing you’re experiencing, when you’re fully alive.
This is a question that should be surveyed: how many people are fully alive while they sit at their computer and tweet?
Could you change that?
Could you take Twitter away from the salesmen and recreate it for the arts?
Could you bring Twitter to life?
How to Make Art On Twitter
While I think it’s hilarious, I’m not talking about Twitterature, those classics like Great Expectations shoved down to 140 characters:
charlesdickens: Orphan given £££ by secret follower. He thinks it’s @misshavisham but it turns out to be @magwitch
Actually my favorite is Bridget Jones’s Diary:
helenfielding: RT @janeaustin Woman meets man called Darcy who seems horrible. He turns out to be nice really. They get together.
No. What if we could go beyond satire and actually make something new?
Some people are already revolting against the Twitter status quo. The author John Wray has been tweeting the story of Citizen since 2009.
What if we took it a step further?
What if you wrote a play and enacted it on Twitter, with a dozen different tweeters as actors? What if someone wrote a novel and released it 140 character line by 140 character line? What if someone started a literary magazine and published exclusively through Twitter?
Collaboration Can Change the World
It only takes a few people to create change. If you’re a writer and you’re not on Twitter, I challenge you to go and sign up.
If you are on Twitter, think about how you can help change Twitter.
So here’s my question: How would you make art on Twitter? What would you do to create something new? How can you help people to become fully present in the moment, even while they read their Twitter feed?
(No practice today. Instead, spend some time coming up with a few ideas to make art on Twitter. You can post them in the comments to inspire the rest of us.)