Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In a status message world, there's a fine line between pithy and concise.

Sentences come to me in the middle of the night. Perfect opening lines find me in the shower.
A string of words that I imagine will become the well loved and much quoted words of the perfect ending to The Great American Novel pop into my head as I drive to the gym.
I can't turn it off. I don't want to turn it off.
But lately, I find the inner voice is distracted, slightly disembodied. The single sentence shudders to a halt. The string of words doesn't have a wrap to the unwritten beginning.
My brain is writing status messages.
I have been mentally hijacked by technology.

In a single day, 140 character twitters tell the world that I had my coffee and am omw to the gym. Two sentences on Facebook let over 300 friends know that I did all my errands with a pencil sticking out of my ponytail because I spent the morning editing. On Yahoo Instant Messenger, my contacts see I am drinking wine and listening to Poe. A Myspace frowny face tells people even before they read my snippet, that I can't be bothered by pettiness.

What's the solution?
To visit these places less? To stop writing status messages? To refine the reasons I started any of these internet social pages to begin with?

I know that the blog is useful when it jump starts a writing day.
Facebook helps me connect with other writers and feel the camaraderie.
Twitter might be good if you're at an event that others can't attend...but frankly,
Myspace has become an eyesore and a place I rarely visit.
(Though I keep one to check on my kids.)

Here's where the pithy and concise parts collide.
I had an idea when I first started blogging in 2005, that I would follow my path to publication. I had a novel and I was querying agents and marketing myself to the world. I had a plan.
And it worked.
I published a fair share of short stories, essay and articles, won some awards, met lots of folks and just recently landed an agent.
It's all good.

But I wasn't writing with focus. I was just writing- about trips and family and friends and parties and shopping and shoes. Oh yes, shoes. And authors and books and kids and dogs and life. Each post starting with a single word that opened up an idea, a self commentary that may have been a phone call if I didn't despise the phone. It might have been a conversation with a friend over coffee, if I had friends that I could meet over coffee. They became pithy blog posts that might have been called diary entries if this was 1982.

Maybe that is exactly what was supposed to happen. Maybe that's what these social outlets have become- a combination of journaling for those of us who need to be heard - and some that don't- Lord, do not get me started on the stream of consciousness bloggers... I can see the benefit of re-connecting with our past by finding old friends and classmates, even hunting for jobs. Of course for some, these social pages are a further connection to their future as they seek friends, romance, or just a cyber-connection virtual date.

There is no wrong or right way to use social networks, just the way that works for you. (though if your boss, your kid or your Grandma is one of your connections you probably need to watch your content more).
A writer friend said that if blogging takes away your urge to write the "real stuff" you need to stop, or at least place limits, and if you are spending more time on Facebook playing games and poking around people's friends lists, than finishing your wordcount for the day, you really need to unplug your modem.

Unplug. That is about as concise as it gets.

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