Writing Small In Social Networking Spaces

Smaller than Expected

I am a regular contributor to the #smallpoems hashtag on both Mastodon and Twitter. I also post to #smallmoments on Mastodon (it used to be #smallstories but that is now a nice stream of fiction stories, as opposed to observational moments that I like to write, to force my attention on the world) and I daily dive into the DS106 Daily Create (which are creative prompts designed to be completed within 10 minutes or so). I am also a participant in the Slice of Life challenge via Two Writing Teachers. Years ago, I helped facilitate something called Day in a Sentence.

What’s my deal with writing small?

I’m not sure, but I wanted to spend a few minutes (small amount of time?) thinking along these lines (and I can only write for myself here, not for anyone else who joins in on these various social media hashtags and writing activities):

  • Social networks seem so large, expansive, and getting larger (well, maybe Twitter is going in reverse), that narrowing down to something small, like short poems or short writing, feels a bit like an antidote to the grand scale of a space;
  • I actually appreciate the limits of writing in the confined writing spaces of updates, as the revision and editing that makes something larger, like writing, into something smaller and more focused, and maybe more nuanced, is a good skill to develop. Yes, I sometimes get frustrated when I hit my character limit without being done with my writing but that just means decisions need to be made — what really needs to be there and what is  the fluff  that needs to be removed;
  • I enjoy when other people join in the hashtags and write their own small pieces, too. I try to engage, to humanize the space. Having smaller networks within the larger ones potentially makes interactions more personal. The opposite can be true, too, though. As folks abandon the Musk zone for Mastodon, and more people use the #smallpoems hashtag, which is of course a public space, it is feeling a bit like the smallness of it is undergoing significant change. It’s not a bad thing to have many poets and writers gathering together. It’s inspiring, but it is different than when it was 8 to 10 people hanging out on a hashtag.
  • I periodically turn my own small poems into visuals, so having fewer words to work with makes that manageable. I guess in that case, function follows form (do I have that right?) in that I set about writing, knowing the possibility is that it will later on become a media object. That’s odd to think about, I guess. A little unsettling in reflection. But, true-ish.
  • It’s a time-crunch thing. I write in the mornings, after walking the dogs and before getting ready to teach all day at school. My routine is to write, and write quick, and short form writing and sharing fits that routine quite well. I worry I am losing the ability to write longer pieces, though — that I have trained my brain for the short bursts of creativity and not nurtured my mind for deeper dives into writing.

Peace (in short),

  1. I learned to write “small stories” between 1973 and 1980 when I was a retail advertising copywriter with the Montgomery Ward company.

    In those days a copywriter would receive an ad layout, with small spaces where copy about a particular item, was needed. Each space had a type markup, showing number of lines and number of characters per line. You had to write within those frameworks.

    Doing that every day for 7 years build some small writing skills. If you look again at my blog you’ll see that my writing style is sort of choppy, like ad copy.

    While I continued in advertising from 1980-1990 I was in manager positions where I supervised and edited the writing of our copywriters. Thus I actually did not do as much original writing as in the first years.

    Thanks for continuing to share your stories.

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