There are many paths to choose from, and none of them go anywhere. Yet you must carefully choose which path you will take.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, from Crones Don’t Whine
I found the phrase “life in the fast – and slow – lane” in my last book of morning pages. I wrote it about six weeks after my friend George died.
I’m not even sure why the phrase bubbled up again as I wrote this morning, but I think is has something to do with my wondering whether I should Twitter. As I look back at that last sentence, I realize that “should” is the word that dominates for me.
I heard recently that an agent said he would not even touch a writer who did not have a platform – platform comprising Facebook, a blog, and Twitter. For each, you have to have a following.
A friend of mine who Twitters told me recently that she had been off it for twelve hours and had already lost ground.
Oh, my. Or, as my old Irish grandmother would say, “Fook!” (I love the way the Irish pronounce fuck. It has all of the heft, but seems to lose some of the stigma attached to using the word.)
I was a technical writer for more than twenty-five years. I prided myself on learning technical concepts quickly and understanding how they applied to our daily lives. Twenty years ago, I worked for Hayes, the leading modem company at the time. Their new business purpose was to integrate telephone technology – which hadn’t progressed much since it was first introduced – into computer technology.
Now I have an iPhone. I can take a call, surf the Internet, and send an email simultaneously — though I don’t usually do that. My email can reach a recipient who lives half way across the globe within seconds.
Science fiction isn’t.
This brings me back to Twitter. Remember that old telephone company ad that encouraged us to “Reach out and touch someone” with a phone call? How happy it made the receiver of the phone call to hear from the person who initiated the phone call?
I appreciate that Twitter technology has the potential to let us reach out and touch thousands of someones – with 140 characters or less.
What I want to do is tell story, so I wondered if one could do that in 140 characters or less. Then I remembered Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word story:
Thirty-two characters, including spaces between words and line breaks.
I also remembered words that came to a friend on Twitter in which a woman described the emotional scene engendered by the mechanics of taking care of her father after an operation. “Over time,” she wrote, “this will be more graceful.”
I have never seen a more poignant description of that emotionally confusing moment when a parent has to relinquish the power of caretaker over to the child.
So one can tell a story in 140 characters or less. And that is an interesting challenge for a writer.
My problem is with the notion that I can’t be away from Twitter for twelve hours or I will lose ground – that the relationships I built through Twitter might not endure a twelve hour gap in attention. That seems more like a one-night stand than a connection to me.
Yet, I’m fascinated by the potential of Twitter for a writer. Actually, I am fascinated by the potential of Twitter to create connections around the world.
But, for me, the important word is “connection.”
I’m definitely more of a face-to-face person. I like to have coffee or a meal with friends. For me, that is the grace of everyday living: taking the time to spend time with someone and letting the conversation take us wherever it leads.
I am at some kind of a crossroads at this moment. As I move into the world with my new story firmly implanted in my heart, I find that I come up against a wall. It isn’t a brick wall. It is a wall that insists that I answer the question, “What do you want to do with your time, with your life?” before it will let me pass.
I pulled the Komodo Dragon card this morning from the Animal Tarot deck. Dragons, it says are not to be slain, but to be tamed – to be tamed so we can use their fiery energy to benefit our creative souls. It is a part of the suit labeled Ancients.
The song “Danny Boy,” I read might have been written during the Irish Diaspora – that period of time when so many Irish left their homes for lands far away. Wake-like social events were held the nights before they departed. They were wake-like for in truth – their departure was like a death. Chances were they would never see their families again. A letter sent might arrive long after the recipient had died.
So I understand that technology can connect us. How much easier would it have been on them if they could have heard the voice of their loved one? Or received an email seconds after it was sent? Or even a 140-character-or-less Tweet sent by an Irish immigrant from Dublin, California that said something like:
I scrunch my toes into the green hill above my house and feel you beside me.
What I hope to accomplish with my stories is to write about those moments that give us an epiphany of what it is to be human – to understand that we are mortal, and that it is in our mortality that we find the purpose of our lives.
I want to live life in the fast lane that is the future, but to know when to switch to the slow lane – when to let ancient wisdom take the time it needs to ensure that I carefully choose the fast lane I merge into – the one that leads to a future that considers the seventh generation.
As I started writing this, I worried that my concern about Twittering means that I am a dinosaur. That the world is moving too fast, and that I am part of an irrelevant past.
I suspect that there is no answer to that. Since none of the paths go anywhere, I am just stuck with choosing carefully, the one I decide to take.
Well, as the friend who made the 12-hour remark, let me say that I was trying to illustrate a point about the nature of Twitter – it is fast moving and fluid like no other means of communication. As I’ve stepped back from my usage, I’ve felt the disconnect, the sense of conversations, information, profundity, amusement all sliding by without my participation. But as soon as I jump back on, I am part of it all again, welcomed and – for better and worse – active.
So… don’t let the 12-hours comment be the reason you don’t jump on. There are plenty of reasons not to Twitter. I could list them easily and without hesitation. But that one – that all is lost if you look away for a day or two or longer – isn’t one of them.
There. All better.
It sounds like you might be offended. Don’t be. It’s really about me and trying to figure out just what stream I want to step into.
During the Bush era I would call the White House when I read something that particularly annoyed me. I had this image that when I left a message that the message taker was in the lobby of the Whitehouse, writing down the message and then taking it right over to George. Now I knew that wasn’t true, but that’s the story I told myself in order to get through that era.
Ranting on Facebook is ever so much more satisfying than calling the Whitehouse. I somehow feel that it means someone is listening.
Then I read that one should be careful about what one does on Facebook because employers, etc. look to it when it comes time to make decisions about you. Well, shit! What’s the good of it if you can’t rant.
My best image of Twitter is that it creates a circle of conversation, being able to reach people you would not otherwise be able to reach. I also think it’s kind of interesting as a writer trying to say something compelling in 140 characters or less.
But this concept that you have to have a “platform” really does make me hit a wall — that one I wrote about. Turning 60 really did make me feel acutely aware that my time is limited. I could still have 40 years left (my grandmother lived to almost 100), but the pace of the technology has a bit of a franticness to it. That always drove me crazy about the industry at the same time that I understood how it applied to me. It just doesn’t really allow for reflection.
I’m just trying to figure out what I want, and what I have time for. Now that last statement could make for a very interesting Twitter (or Tweet?), just put the phrase out there and see what returns.
The thought of keeping it going is a bit daunting, however.
Oh, no! I wasn’t offended! I just felt like I may have given Twitter an undeserved bad rap. (And there are so many valid reasons to not like it, I didn’t want to have given you one that isn’t accurate!) 😉
You’re thinking about all the right things… as usual!
I will listen wherever you rant. I love your rantings. If I could afford to, I’d hire you!
Hmmm . . . getting paid to rant. I need to think of a good way to market that.
What is twitter anyway? No need to reply, it’s rhetorical. (though i don’t really know, and don’t care to.) So that’s what a rep said, huh? one needs a platform, so called, to even be taken seriously? I don’t take people like that seriously, and would, as soon as i heard that, walk out and far away, back to my grey hovel, where the only chance i will ever have at creating anything truly meaningful resides. Most of the years I have lived here, there has been no phone, much less all the other things that they say are required. I am just now learning computers, having never had one till last year. I have learned a lot, but they are great time wasters, too.
I could write immortal works here, die paupered, alone and unknown, with no platform a’tall, but that would not diminish one bit the work. I find it all rather annoying, this new age and it’s gadgets, and the little brains that believe them to be so vital. They be powerful, but not strong. Ya’ know?