While I work for NBC, my office is really Twitter. Indeed, I spend most of my working day on Twitter, both monitoring the baseball news and tweeting like crazy. Insights, jokes, things even more useless than that. There are some days where I’d wager that I tweet more words than most writers write in actual articles or columns. I kinda have a problem.
Against that backdrop, my friend Ethan forwarded me this post from Dustin Curtis called “What I would have written,” which describes how Twitter kills his writing:
Twitter takes complex ideas and destroys them by forcing my brain to compact them into little 140-character aphorisms, truisms, or jokes. For every great tweet, there could have been four insightful paragraphs, but there aren’t, and never will be, because Twitter removes my desire to write by killing my ideas. Once I tweet something, I stop thinking about it; it’s like an emotional release of idea liability.
I couldn’t disagree more. For all of my tweeting, I don’t think that Twitter harms my writing at all. Quite the opposite, actually.
I use Twitter to workshop ideas. I’ll tweet some random observation or jokey thing and, occasionally, I’ll follow it up with a bit of elaboration. Maybe a four or five tweet stream will develop. In turn, people’s replies to the tweets – pro, con or indifferent – help me refine the idea. Or persuade me to chuck the idea totally if it’s just stupid or if I missed something.
At the end of all of that, if the idea is more than just a joke or a random observation, I’ll think “hmm, this is a post,” and I’ll then expand the tweets into a more fully-formed idea. The result, quite often, is a blog post I wouldn’t have otherwise had, all because I started tweeting crap that popped into my head. Here’s an example of something I wrote as a result of some tweets. Here’s another. Here’s another. There are probably three or four a week like that.
Twitter is a great tool. A writer spending all day on Twitter is like a guitar player sitting around with friends riffing. Most of the time nothing comes of it other than camaraderie and bullshit. Occasionally, however, a riff will be particularly good and he’ll make a song out of it.