If you are a writer who would like to be published, there are many books, websites and blogs that will sing the praises of social media and platforms, making convincing arguments for how these are indispensable to your future success. And on Twitter, you can follow all kinds of literary type people…agents, aspiring writers and published authors (Sherman Alexie, not surprisingly, is pretty hilarious).
It was through Twitter that I discovered this online essay, Would Jane Austen Write a Blog? (and other things writers probably shouldn’t do), in which Cath Murphy explains why Jane Austen would probably not have blogged, Oscar Wilde would not have tweeted, and Charles Dickens would not have participated in NaNoWriMo. Mostly I agree with what Murphy has to say, and it confirmed a growing suspicion I’ve had since joining Twitter–that in the end the most important thing a writer does is write.
Obviously, unlike Jane Austen, I do have a blog. Writing my blog was a central part of the path that led me back to writing at all, a circuitous route that also involved a sociology of gender textbook. I continue to write for my blog because I see it as complementary to the other writing I do. Put simply, being able to get a little bit of instant gratification and feedback for my writing by posting on my blog allows me the freedom to do the harder kind of writing that provides absolutely no instant gratification and feedback. Also, there’s the fact that wring my blog just makes me happy.I can totally see the seductive power of Twitter and blogs and other social media for aspiring writers. Especially with Twitter, there’s the sense of being so very close to the center of the writing and publishing world. I can see intimate details of this literary agent’s life on an almost minute by minute basis; surely she is my best friend who is just waiting to read and fall in love with my novel. I’m only following 39 people, and I already feel completely overloaded with information about how to get published, how to write a query letter, how to build a platform and a little bit of how to write. I could easily spend entire days following these various trails down respective rabbit holes. But then when would I write?
Twitter is a very powerful social media tool and there are certainly folks who have landed book deals in part because of social media like Twitter, though at some point they still had to write something longer than 140 characters. But in the end, a writer has to write. So I’m not going anywhere, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, you’re more than welcome. But as someone who has a day job, faced with the choice between spending countless hours building a social media empire and writing, I’ll be choosing writing.