Have you ever noticed that really great comedy writers tend to have a really great social media presence? Sure, that is how one would get their name out now in this post-resume world…but it’s more than that.
You basically need social media to be able to “make it” these days, but I also believe you need it for a lot more than marketing and networking. Scoffing social media is not only a pretty elitist move, but it’s also throwing away a chance to improve your writing.
That’s right, you can become a better writer by tweeting on the toilet. It’s called composting. Seriously.
Facebook statuses are writing, but…not?
In The Writing Secret
I touch on how silly it is that we have this concept of writing vs non-writing. The distinction between the two seems to be that writing is serious and “productive” while non-writing is all the frivolous, “unimportant” words we write when we’re not actually writing.
What? Non-writing is what we write when we’re not writing?
Listen. Writing is writing is writing. It is.
I have spent years
searching for this quote about bad or unpublished writing that has haunted me and became part of my own process. Today I finally found it.
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
This was the first time I heard the concept of growing something beautiful from your useless writing. You know, the writing that isn’t in the final draft of your big project. That’s a lot of writing, not just the chapters you cut out of your novel to change the plot half way through. It is everything you have ever written that is NOT this big beautiful money maker.
It’s a bit strange to me that writers have more self-hatred than artists when it comes to time spent on an unpublishable piece or even just practice. Artists know they have to do to learn, they have to do a bunch of bad art as well as warm up and cool down sketches. Most other artists I know can look at a bad piece and go “well, I figured out a good color combination I can use later, so that’s cool.”
Writers are told to write as much as they can…you know, after they read for hours and hours. Even then “write” gets translated to “write a billion short stories and send them off to publications and get paid.” Then when one gets rejected a certain number of times it’s canned. Eventually this trash can gets full of your “shame stories,” pieces that took up your time only to be deemed useless. That’s not really what anyone means by practice.
So, let’s not call it practice. Let’s call it composting.
A few years ago I was googling literally every word I could remember from that Erin Bow quote about no wasted writing. I stumbled upon Natalie Goldberg
and her book Writing Down the Bones
while I was searching “quote about writing composting or something??” Here’s her quote about writing composting or something:
“Our sense by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this “composting.” Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogran, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories.
But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. When we are raking our minds and taking our shallow thinking and turning it over, if we continue to work with this raw matter, it will draw us deeper and deeper into ourselves, but not in a neurotic way. We will begin to see the rich garden we have inside us and use that for writing.”
Not what I was looking for, but just as necessary.
Because you know what’s really good for revisiting our rich experiences? Or for turning those words over and over until your hand hits something good and solid? A social media account.
I mean, or yes, a journal…but it’s just so easy to tweet or update a status. It is easy to retweet someone else inspirational garden and keep that in our records. It’s easy to find new angles to attack your experiences from. It is easy to throw all of our thoughts, as unorganized and ugly they are, and create your own fertile soil in this weird lil digital garden.
That regular “non-writing” is necessary and important to your process!
wrote about this a few years ago, too, and actually suggests not
using your compost as a journal. Or your journal like your compost. Whatever.
“Write down all the garbage you’ve got, every day—not like a journal, chronological and neat, but more like a garbage disposal, throwing everything in. Half-finished essay introductions, to-do lists, poems, love letters to no one. Fill notebooks with it. And periodically, sift through what you are writing for the beautiful things that’ll start to grow in it. Sometimes you’ll find the roots of ideas forming in your mind; other times you’ll be rereading your accumulated inanity and stumble on just the thought you’ve been looking for, or the insight you need, to help you wrap up your current project or crash through a new one.”
That is one beautiful
suggestion. And you know what? I think most of us do this already on twitter or tumblr or facebook or blog. I know I post half-finished poems, to-do lists, possible essay topics, and more on a regular basis. My old author bio used to say “find Kyra Wolff’s thought process at twitter.com/kyra_kat
” because it’s very much were I brain dump.
A Tweet is a Little Poem.
In the circles I run in, people will create these long threads trying to explain there feelings on a particular subject. Each tweet is an attempt to figure out the right words to get their point across. Then, eventually when they find the right words, they run with it in a word doc. It turns into a very smart sounding article that they can sell for a few hundred dollars.
For myself, I feel like I am constantly throwing my experiences at twitter trying to find the right angle. Twitter is constantly moving, everything changes so fast, that you can rehash certain things without seeming repetitive to your followers.
I love this interview with Precious Okoyomon
from The Creative Independent
website btw) about the internet and the notion that everything is apart of everything. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who gets great poetic lines from angry social media rants. I’m obsessed with the idea that “everything is one big great poem.”
“I’m on the internet quite a bit. It almost makes me insane. Ben [Fama] has this line in a poem, “The internet is my home/ where it’s easy to be beautiful.” I agree with that like to the max. I’m constantly on my phone. I read my poems off my phone. I write on my phone. My phone is constantly in my hand. Being a contemporary poet and being on the internet go hand in hand. A tweet is a little poem. I send my friend a text—that’s a love poem! I want literature that’s not made from literature, like let’s destroy this idea of a pure form… everything is cross mutation of particles that merge with one another.”
“Some people feel like tweeting or texting friends can steal the energy that would otherwise get put to their work.”
“No. That’s all my writing. You can’t steal something that’s a part of everything, if it’s all connected and it’s all the same thing. What makes it different? I write it on paper so it’s more holy than if it’s on my phone or in a tweet or a text to a friend? No. The space your words are in shouldn’t matter more than your words. Some of my best lines will come from a manic Facebook post when I’m pissed off at someone. Little things that I don’t even think about, and I go back like, “Oh, that is a good line.” Everything is one big great poem. Why pretend otherwise?”
So go ahead and read through your old social media posts. Try to pick out some of the decent stuff. Rework that into new posts and repeat until you have something you can bring into your money making writing.
Go ahead and download The Writing Secre
t and read more about not beating yourself up for “non-writing” activities. There’s this whole mental shift that happens when you realize it all really is connected. The things you do everyday can improve your writing career.
Thanks for reading! Let’s compost together, tweet me
about a time when social media has inspired your writing! I personally have a whole first draft of a scifi novel based on a series of messages from me and my friends! What abut you?