As legend has it, Ernest Hemingway was asked if he knew the shortest story in the English language. He is said to have answered: “For sale: Baby clothes, never used.”
Impressive and less than 140 characters. Much as Da Vinci came up with the idea of the parachute before the plane was even invented Hemingway clearly anticipated Twitter.
If Hemingway were alive today would he be as prolific or would he spend his days blogging about his attempts to write the Great American Novel? Like so many would-be writers. Perhaps it’s because most advice on writing says ‘set aside 15 minutes a day as you begin to wake up and just write whatever comes into your mind’. It says nothing about publishing on your blog.
Publishing is often confused with communication. Publishing is not a two way street. It’s about presenting content not interacting. But we’re seeing a lot of publishing on social network sites intended for interaction. There are 60 million residents in the UK but the official UK Government Facebook page has a current total of 335 fans. Because although we can post anything we want, we shouldn’t expect a response.
But Twitter is not used in the way many of us would expect. The latest research shows that the top 10% of prolific Twitter users are responsible for over 90% of tweets. The rest follow. So Stephen Fry has 777,933 followers but he only follows 54,468. It’s another passive activity for the majority of users.
So, to update an old classic, why not switch off the social media and go and do something less boring instead. 1 November marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, now in its tenth year. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. Go on, you’ve got the next 30 days to limber up with a bit of free form blog entry.