Friday, November 7, 2014


“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
-- Blaise Pascal

Loving a good pun, this headline taking an opportunity to abbreviate “Twitter”– a veritable art form in condensed expression, sometimes – was too self-gratifying to resist.

Most contemporary writers know:  the irony of editing is that reducing word count once the “actual writing” is barfed out can be much harder work.  Revision can be so painstaking as to paralyze us outright.  What research to remove, what scenes to sacrifice, what action to abbreviate?  Down in the forests with our trusty butter knives, chasing dragons, it can get harder and harder to see the trees.

Beta readers, of course, are a wonderful thing.  The great and inimitable Leila Gaskin (herself an expert on dragons) nearly got kissed, once, when she simply told me to jettison sixty pages.  She’d been afraid to say it, but the instinct correct – AND shucking like that is a pretty easy job, compared to line-by-line word-shaving and migraine-by-migraine character analysis, scene analysis, structural retrofitting after deletions of same (lawzy, ask me how long it took to get rid of Clovis’ older sister, an historical figure by the way, who added nothing but bulk to our story!).  In revision, continuity can become a pernicious problem!

In microcosm, a lot of Twitter users – especially amongst my writer friends, I know – suffer pangs of a similar sort, getting everything into 140 characters.  I have witnessed that same Leila, sweating out a Tweet or three, sitting in panels at #JRW and sharing wisdom with the world.  Watching the process of paring but preserving voice and conveying a point was not merely entertaining, it was instructive.  I’ve felt that pain.  I’ve REHEARSED Tweets – not because I’m that anal-retentive, but because I know exactly how I want something said, and the limitations on my loquatiousness.

“That awkward moment when you exceed 140 and have to choose which grammar crime to commit.”

Those limitations on my loquatiousness are damned useful little beasts, though.  They keep you alert as hell, and, over the course of a couple years or so relearning how to communicate in microblog form (“Must! Leave! Room! For the BLOG LINK!”) illuminates for analytic eyes a new perspective.  And I still use the two-spaces-after-a-period system in most of my Tweets.  … Most …

Before I ever joined – and I only did so out of some curiosity about the medium, much-touted as one outlet to reach out to people as an author – I tended to stand with those snobs who pooh-pooh Twitter, under the idea that nothing worthwhile can possibly be shared in a 140-character entry.  The name itself hardly dispels this notion, evoking nothing but the confused, crowded noise of a flock of birds, and onomotopoeically silly to boot.  Much as I do with “secretary”, I intentionally call myself a Twit when mentioning my usage, because that’s what it sounds like the population should be called, for layered reasons.

It didn’t take me long, though, to come to appreciate both my friends there and the medium itself.  It forces my yapping-puppy mode of communcation into a harness, a discipline I’ve come to appreciate.  And it also affords me lines of communication with people who are almost universally intelligent and interesting.  I jump in and chat with men and women both sharing my interests and ideas, and exposing me to new ones.  Life there isn’t too hard to keep troll-free, and with the standard that anything I say online I would be willing to allow my mother or my nieces to read, I don’t think I’m too hard on anyone else, either.

The brevity of Twitter, too, means that even as your timeline rushes by – which, even with only about 700 followers, and following over 800 myself, provides quite the dizzying rush of links, observations, rallying cries, and incredibly funny posts and retweets – and conversations don’t get much bogged down.  I once live-tweeted Highlander with a couple of pals, we had a good time, then it was over – and you can do much the same with television and so on.  In much the same way I work crosswords with my mother over the phone, sharing entertainment virtually can be diverting, particularly when your IRL companionship is snuggly and furry, but still sub-verbal.

Twitter has provided moral support and encouragement under the #AmWriting, #AmEditing, and #AmQuerying hashtags more than once, and the occasional insight into the way I write.  This is no advertisement nor exhortation to join; just an observation, because all this interests me, and anything that changes or even develops my use of our language does too.

Do you belong?  (Let’s find each other there!)  Have you found it crystallizes in your own eyes the way you express things and share them?

I’d have written a shorter post … but that is for Twitter.

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