Just Another Twit on Twitter?

Tina Fey, who I think is enormously talented and for whom I have a lot of respect, disappointed me with this quote on the Today Show:


There has been a great deal of quarreling and infighting in the writing world in regards to what makes a "real writer" and if people who self-publish, blog, micro-blog, tweet, Tumblr, or use other internet platforms can call themselves writers or…what? Internet hacks? Fools who write for free when there are "real writers" who get the almighty dollar for their work? 

I don't (I TRY not to, that is) get into infighting on the web, mostly because I was a terribly shy and awkward kid in school and I cry very easily. Confrontation is not one of my strong points. Getting opinions across using the written word, however, IS a strong suit of mine. Sure I don't have an editor or a proofreader, and sometimes my grammar isn't perfect, or I misspell a word from time to time, and no, I don't get paid to write. I do it because I love it. I do it because I NEED to do it or my head will explode. It's part of me, the words that come out of my mind, rush down my nerve endings, electrify my fingers and end up on the page, or screen, or cocktail napkin, or whatever medium happens to be at the ready. I'm a writer. It's what I do.

Sure, you can have tweets that look like this:


Is that art? No, it's an easy, self-deprecating joke, and, like many tweets, a little snippet about my day. However, there are also tweets that look like this: 


A little more poetry there, and still on Twitter, home of the "what I had for lunch" argument (that inane, meaningless tripe no one cares about is the only stuff on Twitter). It's a platform for words, and that platform can be used for good or evil, for inane bollocks or heart-wrenching confessional poetry. It just has to be in 140 characters or less. Brevity, I'm told, is the soul of wit, after all.

 We are so fortunate, as writers, and readers, to live in a world wherein one's voice can be heard by millions even when we can't (or won't) make a sound. It's the abject beauty of the written word, it's freedom of speech, it's freedom, period. I live in a cage created by my own mind, but when I write, I am not barricaded in my apartment, imprisoned by my own fucked up brain chemistry. My words are out there, my heart and soul are out there, and sure, sometimes I'll get emotionally hit by a truck by someone who thinks I'm a hack, or a whiny self-indulgent asshole, or just a nobody, but that is outweighed a million times by a simple "I understand" or "I feel that way too" or "I thought I was the only one". That is, if I'm lucky. Most times, my words fade into the ether, as well they should. Even though I can go days on end without audibly speaking a word, I do have a tendency to ramble. 

Words are power. Words are poetry. Words are beauty. So is free will, and the magic that is creativity. We all have it in some way shape or form. And if you or I want to use that power, poetry and magic in 140 characters on Twitter, or on a blog, or spraypainted on the side of a building, we should DO IT. It's all art, in the end. 

Tina Fey? I'm sorry you have such a negative opinion of Twitter. You obviously haven't met the incredible people I have been lucky enough to meet through that particular platform. I'm terribly blessed to have them. 

I'm lucky enough to not consider writing "work." Sure, I write for other sites, and those are gigs and all, and of course I take writing seriously (when the occasion calls for it) but I write because I love it. When I was a singer, I didn't get paid to belt out showtunes in the shower, but I still did that every day. Because I LOVED it. And even if I WAS making money off of my written words, I'd still blog, and Twitter, and use Tumblr and even Facebook status updates. Because I love the words. I love writing.

 If it was just work, I'd probably quit.


Just Another Twit on Twitter? — 26 Comments

  1. You realize, a lot of these sentences wouldn’t fit in 140 characters. The ones that do leave very few characters which would be taken up by @tinafey at the beginning of each tweet. I’m a twitter user, I’m commenting using typepad’s twitter sign-on, I have over 40k tweets, but I also understand how those 140 are very restrictive in terms of expressing the full range of human thought eloquently as you do in this blogpost. 🙂

  2. “We mock what we don’t understand.”
    I didn’t see the clip, but based on quote alone I think the charming Ms. Fey probably just doesn’t get Twitter and delivered an off the cuff snarkbite to get a chuckle on morning TV. And perhaps being a “working” writer has sucked some of the sparkle out of writing for her over time.
    That being said, I fully agree with you about what makes a #realwriter and will hold your soapbox steady on the general issue. [raises fist in solidarity]

  3. My daughter is an artist. She is five and she doesn’t get paid, but she creates better art than I ever have or ever will. I tell her every time she gets discouraged that an artist is a person who creates art, not a person who gets paid for art or whose art people talk about or whose art is perfect.
    Being a writer is much the same way. In some ways I’ll probably never be a writer. I’ll probably never get paid for putting pen to paper, but in other ways I’ve been a writer since I was a teenager, angsty poetry and all. Being a writer is creating art out of words, nothing more and nothing less.
    Is that difficult to do on twitter? Certainly, but never EVER impossible.
    I think that it’s okay for Tina Fey to not like writing on Twitter. It is hard to make those 140 characters work. In other words, if she’s a sculptor, she shouldn’t feel like she has to paint. But she also shouldn’t downplay the importance of paint for those who love it.
    Sorry for the book. I love you and your Tweets, Miss Banshee!

  4. This is such an awesome point.
    Also, there’s that Canadian lady Kelly something or another who has like 45,000 followers ONLY BECAUSE HER TWEETS ARE FUNNY. Self contained bits of hilarity. She got a writing deal as a result. To do TV.
    I’m disappointed in Tina Fey’s comment too, especially because she’s a huge idol of mine.

  5. i agree COMPLETELY. getting paid to write is awesome. i’d love to get paid to do what i love. instead i have a job that pays me but that i hate so im leaving it after “just” working there for 3 years. in turned out that no amount of money paid to me could entice me to stay. money isn’t everything. it’s a necessary evil, unfortch, but it certainly doesn’t always afford you happiness or peace of mind. that shit’s priceless.

  6. Yeah, not so happy with Mx. Fey about that quote either. I can appreciate wanting to stay away from the huge time-suck that twitter can be, but she certainly didn’t have to say that other writers who do aren’t taking their writing “seriously.”
    I love twitter and that clever word-smiths, like yourself, make it the most fun place to be (IRL or on-line) sometimes.

  7. I totally feel you on this. That love of writing, that absolute need to do it, I feel that too. I’ve never made a dime off of it, but I know that if I don’t write, when I don’t write, I’m not as fully myself as when I am. And I love twitter, a place where you’re forced to be brief.
    Great post.

  8. I can almost agree with Tina Fey, not because I think Twitter is a waste of time, or it’s breeding a nation of bad writers, but because Twitter makes me feel like I have to be “on” all the time and I’m neither quick nor clever enough naturally (at least not in under 140 characters). I was an early adopter Twitter’er, but somewhere along the line I lost the ability to discern boring from witty. So I just stopped using it for anything except the occasional link drop.

  9. I kind of agree with Tina Fey – I just think maybe she worded her point in a way that came across kind of harsh. I don’t have time for Twitter either. I’m not going to lie, I have a Twitter account (that I now never check and don’t even remember the password for) and I had posted a few things on it at one time. I don’t care if people use Twitter or not or how they want to define how they use that media. It does get a little tiring when you constantly hear about how this person is Twittering this and this person just Twittered that. Really? That’s nice but I don’t have a phone with the internet strapped to my hand so I can’t Twitter my most immediate thoughts at all times – nor do I care to. It doesn’t bother me that other people choose too however.

  10. I’m always mystified by the certainty some people feel about the things they have yet to experience. It seems so short-sighted to me.
    I suppose I’m pretty certain of at least a couple of things too. The first is that Twitter isn’t for everyone. Lots of people like it and some don’t and quite a few others still aren’t sure what a blog is which makes twitter quite a stretch. The second thing I’m willing to bet is that our beloved Tina Fey didn’t really intend to passive aggressively belittle twitter users or fans. I think she is sharp, witty and sarcastic and she was asked a question on a morning tv show.
    Ultimately, I don’t think she knows enough about twitter to form an opinion. If she really thinks that the bulk of the reason why twitter fascinates people is updates about lunch choices, she clearly doesn’t have enough experience to be credible.
    Miss Banshee clearly uses twitter as another outlet for her creative energy and her voice. That is her choice, and we (her readers) are all the more enriched for it. Maybe Tina Fey isn’t craving another outlet for her energy and voice. Maybe she isn’t bursting with words she is mad she isn’t sharing. Or maybe she just doesn’t want the pressure of being public, funny, witty, sarcastic Tina Fey in yet another forum. I get it… and those are all valid reasons not to tweet.
    Maybe next time Tina Fey is asked a simple question about something she doesn’t know much about she will leave the implied judgement out of her comments.

  11. Frankly, I love reading about what people had for lunch. It’s in my top 3 favorite types of status updates. That said, I don’t begrudge anyone their negative view of Twitter. It can be a time suck, but for me it’s been and will probably continue to be pretty valuable.

  12. This is one of your best posts ever! Full of passion! Twitter is where I look during a day that is hard, or boring, or sad, or… I never fail to find something to amuse, inform or inspire me. Especially your tweets!

  13. One can most definitely do serious writing on Twitter. A lot of the people I follow, Miss Banshee included, are absolutely brilliant in 140 characters or less. I love how the character limit forces me to be creative, to pare down and re-word things. It’s a great exercise.
    And, while I do occasionally tweet about what I’m eating, Twitter is good for so much more. Dropping links, getting immediate, firsthand news when something big happens anywhere in the world, and even finding a community of friends. I had an absolutely horrible month recently with multiple sick cats, two of whom died. I found so much support on Twitter and it really helped me get through it all.

  14. Two things to keep in mind about Twitter:
    1} Yes, it’s hard to convey real meaning in only 140 characters–that’s all the more reason to do so, to practice your skills at brevity and economy-of-verbeage. If tweeting helps just one person hone their writing skills, Twitter is all the better overall for it.
    2} The people who do Twitter well tend to be good writers in general, regardless of medium. Look at, say, Neil Gaiman, Roger Ebert, and yourself. You, Miss B, are certainly not tied to any one genre of writing, and you bring them all across equally well–your tweets are as fun to read as your blog posts. (Cooking metaphor: If a chef’s canapés are tasty, it’s a fair bet the rest of her cuisine will be delicious as well.)
    Anyway, who cares what Tina Fey thinks? I like her show, but she’s as capable of being wrong as any of us. And that’s amply on display here. If she wants to ignore a potentially-great-in-the-right-hands writers’ tool, that’s up to her. But the least she could do is refrain from disparaging Twitter just ‘cos she doesn’t get it.
    Thanks again for showing us your work!

  15. I love her, too, but I hope the Pete-raping-his-wife (TWICE!) joke on 30 Rock last night was not as fully baked as the season is going to get. It kind of made me want to throw up.

  16. Hear, hear!
    Tina Fey clearly doesn’t know what she’s missing. A REAL writer? How about @maureenjohnson? Who writes BOOKS. FOR A LIVING, even. And occasionally BLOGS. And whose tweets are as delightful as they are frequent.

  17. I just adore the gorgeous artist in you that peeks out from behind your life. This poor artist, like most artists, is a welcome visitor to the rest of us, but I think scares you.
    Twitter has forced me to use brevity and realize that brevity can be powerful. Even Hemingway knew the power of telling a story with brevity. He wrote what we considered his best work, although he might have been drunk, it’s still pretty powerful.
    For Sale: Baby shoes, Never worn.
    Neil Gaiman’s 6 word story.
    I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss…
    Here are more 6 word stories, enjoy writing with way less than 140 characters

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