Considering tweeting about working on your novel? Think twice.


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Twitter is a connector, a place for micro-stories, an Internet water cooler. As a result, it is a tempting procrastination tool, particularly for people who are inclined to be sitting at a computer, fingers poised over a keyboard.

Like, for example, hopeful novelists.

Just go to @WrkOnMyNovel for proof. The new Twitter account gathers tweets that reference working on novels — which, of course, someone is not doing with tremendous focus if they’re tweeting about it. In fact, some who tweet about working on novels admit they’re in the middle of doing something else entirely: Watching ‘Dr. Who,’ PBS or ‘Gilmore Girls,’ filling Etsy orders, spending time on Pinterest.


Others who tweet about their writing environments do seem to be writing, or at least ready and set for it. Coffee shops and chai are popular. There is the occasional glass of red wine. One writer, @sonyazombiee, tweeted: ‘Thinking of working on my novel all day in bed tomorrow. Hmm,’ which does sound rather pleasant.

But is the project meant to highlight the aspirations of hopeful writers or to showcase how futile those hopes can be? Clearly, tweeting about writing a novel is not writing the novel itself. Writing a novel is a lot harder than tweeting that you’re writing a novel. I myself have finished many tweets — almost 7,000 of them — but I have not finished a novel (OK, I finished one, but that was really just an MFA manuscript, never published). My mother used to say, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’ If tweets were novels, we’d all be novelists, many times over.

The person behind @WrkOnMyNovel, which launched April 18, is the programmer and artist Cory Arcangel; he acts as curator. Another Twitter project of his is the search for ‘follow my other Twitter,’ which, he told Interview magazine, is ‘kind of an inside joke about social networks. People often have two identities and they’re always asking people to follow the other one.’ When asked if he would present these projects as artwork, Arcangel said, ‘I would present it as an artwork that exists on the Internet, but not in a gallery. And maybe as a book one day.’

Of course, if you’re telling an interviewer about putting together a book, you’re not actually doing it. But anybody who tweets about writing a novel could tell you that.


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— Carolyn Kellogg