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Twittering & Writing

Last week, the lovely script whizz Linda Voorhees invited me to Twitter. And having followed her through her stunning exposition of master scenes, taglines and page 60, I'd pretty much follow her anywhere (and am thrilled she's now got a channel on YouTube—Voorgreen, and is teaching online). So I joined.

But I'm ambivalent about Twitter although I love watching the character countdown: 140, 123, 81, 2, 1.  It could be a lot of fun, getting the most out of those 140 characters. But I'm feeling a bit of keyboard overload: scripts, thesis, three email addresses, txt, and now Twitter--

And I've just read a 2003 interview with novelist Zadie Smith (pictured) that helped me understand why. I can't wait for her new book Fail Better, about writers, due this month; I read her stunning "Fail better" article in the Guardian ages ago, and it helped me understand my writing process, but the link no longer works. According to her, writing "is a wonderful job..."

"...but it's not always a wonderful job to wake up every morning and face a computer, and there's nobody to talk to, and there's nobody around. It's not always the cheeriest job in the world. It's an odd job when the work's not going well, which happens to me quite a lot. Then, it's just a lot of sitting around and sadness... When I'm writing properly, that's my life every day. You forget to eat, you forget to do anything. And it doesn't feel completely healthy.
Q (Camille Dodero) : After those periods of isolation, do you find it hard to relate to people?
A: Yes. If I'm let out to go to a party, say, and I haven't been out for three or four weeks, I don't realise that most people have colleagues and they know how to smooth things over [in conversation]. You don't always have to tell the truth, for instance, about how you're feeling every second of the day.
When I finished White Teeth and had to start doing press, I would always say the wrong thing. I didn't know how to be a person with other people. And there's all kinds of linguistic things, tics, to make a conversation smooth and natural, and I really didn't know what I was doing because I never saw anybody... I think [writing] sometimes has a bad effect on your social skills."
I never forget to eat. I enjoy it too much, and my brain fails if it's not well fed. But when I'm writing most of the time, I do sometimes forget how to be a person with other people. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. So I've learned to make sure that I sit at a kitchen table with a real live person or two, and a cup of tea, regularly. And I cook for a friend twice a week, who's very understanding when, sometimes, I can't sustain a conversation. Twitter, like email and txting, takes time from being with people-in-the-flesh.  On the other hand it's a great way to stay in touch with people like Linda who live far away.

So I've decided to Twitter, a bit. 


  1. Fabulous blog, M, most inspiring! Glad you're at uni to help me practice my social skills and put fear aside :) I had a look at Linda's youtube sessions, great to remember our intense two weeks, and be able to refresh the learning too. Love the images of you in your office, the toaster vs printer race, etc. And great to take advantage of your reading & movie-going adventures through your blog, thanks! xxxDesiree

  2. We need to live more and record less. You can drink a coffee and twitter “I drank a coffee." Or you can drink a coffee and have a kiss in the same amount of time. Add this up to a lifetime and wonder what this generation will miss.

  3. That's lovely. Two of my favorite people, living on opposite sides of the world, meet in cyberspace. Hadn't considered that such a magic thing might happen. xxxx to you both.


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