More than once, I’ve heard the argument that Twitter can help people improve their writing. When your medium has a 140-character limit, you tweak your message until it’s crystal clear.
However, I’ve seen some very poorly-written tweets from people on a consistent basis, without any signs of improvement. I also know some writers who can tweet but who, when given the opportunity, mentally masturbate all over a page.
If you truly want to improve your writing for all media, you will use every opportunity to improve your craft. To provide clear and clever content, you should shake what your momma gave ya (whether that be 140 characters, infinite space of a blog post, or a sexy booty).
Social media probably won’t help you if you have no interest in craft, but social networking tools have definitely helped me improve my writing in the following ways:
1. Dialogue – I used to be terrified of writing dialogue, and I have great respect and admiration for screenwriters and playwrights. Dialogue is so difficult to write because it can easily sound contrived. We don’t usually think too much before we speak, but we think a lot on the page.
Watching dialogue unfold online has definitely helped me feel more confident using it in fiction. Gchat conversations are a great way to practice safe textual banter. Twitter @ replies are another way to hone dialogue. Even a Facebook status and its subsequent comments mimic a conversation.
If you read my Twitter stream, you probably notice my “OH” (overheard) tweets. You probably think I’m just being silly by posting these bits of conversation, but I actually like paying attention to dialogue and thinking about what makes it work.
2. Precision – Without the benefit of facial expressions and hand gestures, I must be very precise when writing for social media. Generally, I don’t have a lot of space to convey my message.
When I write fiction, I can take my sweet time getting to the point, and I can use fancy tools like figurative language. However, most readers don’t have the patience for these things. Social media allows me to practice on a contemporary audience.
3. Discipline – Blogging and sharing little bits of creative writing with my social media audience has provided me with discipline. I become accustomed to updating my blog and offering new content on a consistent basis.
Because I blog every night, adding creative writing to the blogging mix just makes me feel more obligated to tend to it. Anyway, it’s a treat after writing professionally all day.
4. Confidence – Sharing writing of any type can be a very daunting task. By now, I am pretty much used to it (harsh but helpful criticism in grad school workshops toughened me up), but I still get nervous when sharing new work. Most of the stuff I write for this blog does not require a lot of my emotion. But creative writing (…wait for the drama…) drains my soul.
Posting short story revisions on LaryssaWrites.com has slowly boosted my confidence and helped me realize that I don’t have to be afraid. The more I share my stories, the more I realize that people can relate to them. I should share what feels emotionally genuine to me.
I’ve also learned to shake off some of my perfectionist tendencies. When my priority is airing out a new piece of writing and letting it see the light, I have to accept that the piece might not be perfect. Trusting the process is the key to confidence.
5. Inspiration and Creative Stimulation – Being active on social networks means that I am constantly in conversation with people. Before Facebook and Twitter, I was mostly inspired by real-life conversations, but the inspiring and profound moments in daily mundane conversation are rare. Online, I have thousands of different perspectives and voices buzzing around me at all times. Any second could be a chance for a new idea.
I love pushing people further, asking questions, picking brains, and getting other people to challenge me. I sometimes like to pose incendiary questions or make daring statements just to see if anyone can shake me. For a creative person, social networks are a great high-energy environment. Pretend you’re playing a game of double-dutch: jump in when you seek inspiration and jump out when you need introspection.
How has social media helped you improve your craft?
(Photo by Glamour Schatz)