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Twitter Is The Root Of All Poetry English Edition
Learn more and compare subscriptions. Or, if you are already a subscriber Sign in. I nominate J. Salinger as the least likely tweeter in literary history. But for him the creative act of writing was deeply entwined with the nourishing condition of privacy, even secrecy.
This privacy, in turn, not only surrounded his work but was embedded in it. His writing seems to be to be spoken in confidence directly to the reader, singular.
You could say it imbues writing with a sense of performance, though writing has always involved performance in the sense of performance anxiety. The question for the writer who is leaving multiple pages crumpled on the floor—literally or figuratively—is for whom is that line, or paragraph, unsatisfactory? His prescription is summed up in his title: a couple of trusted voices with whom a writer will engage in a dialogue—sometimes literally, more often not.
Twitter is messing with this equation: I have many more voices in my head than I ever had before.
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Managing the anxiety of composition is an essential part of writing. One must master the process of shepherding the private into public. There are bound to be false starts, excursions that turn out to be dead ends. But these ephemera—notes, journals, drafts—are all composed in a kind of psychic antechamber whose main feature is a sense of aloneness. They are the literary equivalent of muttering to yourself in a state of melancholy, or of dancing in front of the mirror with music blasting when you are alone in your room.
Both of these are best done when no one is home.
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Part of me thinks that having these scraps, these false starts, these isolated phrases, find their way into the public domain at the time they were written would have diminished the impetus of, say, Sylvia Plath or John Cheever, to do the work that has made so much of their ephemera fascinating in the first place. It is, for writers of all ages and stages, not so much required reading as required writing.
The whole thing seems stupid at first: you ignore whoever is giving you this lecture, until one day you decide, O. I wrote it out at night, when I do most of my writing. I was pretending to be me. I found the experience to be strange, exhilarating, outrageously narcissistic, frightening, and embarrassing. In other words, like writing. The plane will be rushed onward and out of sight. Except there is now a record of it. I assumed my series of tweets was a draft. They were not pages crumpled on the floor, exactly—more like pages to be stacked up and put aside, where, like some gourmet dish, its elements might have time to blend.
A day or two later I assembled the tweets, revised them into a short essay, and sent them out for publication.
This is how I thought of those tweets, as a first draft, one which would lead to another draft and maybe another and another, until I thought it was ready to be published, which it was. A year or so later I composed another piece in the same manner.
The first one took up about fifteen tweets.