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Why Do We Twitter?

For those not yet familiar with Twitter, it’s the latest social networking and microblogging tool that enables you to publish 140-characters-or-less thoughts into the blogosphere via a Web connection, or remotely by way of a txt message from your cell phone. The advent of one-on-one txt messaging on cell phones has created a new habit for people, and Twitter’s taken the concept to a whole new level by allowing you to publish your thoughts to millions of people at a time, rather than just one personal friend. There’s obvious potential for psychological addiction with this enabling technology, just as cell phones were in the first place. So like anything, it can get pretty nutty.

So why do we Twitter, anyway? Are we sick? Are we weird? Are we antisocial nutjobs with no lives? Some would say so. I’ve heard it. And for the record, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with them. That said…

I woke up thinking about this the other morning and it dawned on me that, for me anyway, it’s not a Twitter thing. It’s a creative thing. An artist thing. More specifically, it’s a writer thing. By writing, I don’t necessarily mean putting pen to paper or sitting down at a keyboard. By writing, I mean a communication of ideas. And sometimes, no, most of the time, this communication of ideas is targeted at the writer himself. Every form of writing begins with that initial communication with oneself. Call it insane, but it’s true. You see, when a writer’s mind is plagued with an idea, there is a fundamental need to have it realized by turning it into something tangible. So you can see it. To shake it off. To purge it. It could be a story, or a poem, or a song. It could be a joke. It could be a painting, or a sculpture. It could be sitting down on a drum set and hammering out a groove that’s been brewing in the creative part of the mind for weeks. This urge, this need, this itch, is called a muse. And when the muse calls, it’s absolutely necessary — for survival — to follow it. Following your muse is as much a responsibility we have to ourselves as any other form of health maintenance.

It’s that simple. Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s what we MUST do. If we don’t, we die. Period. We are like the sharks of the sea who must constantly move forward, keeping the water flowing through their gills to survive. A writer’s need to write is no different than his need for air, food, water, sleep, and love.

But apparently some people see it as a problem.

Let me say this: These types of insane, sick minds — the minds that must constantly have their ideas executed and realized else be suffocated by them — are the same minds that keep the rest of the healthy world entertained. These are the minds that create the songs you love, the books you escape into, the guitar players you worship, and the movies you pay $10.50 for. People who don’t understand this basic need writers have are akin to static clams sitting on the ocean floor, regarding sharks as restless lunatics that need to learn how to chill. Almost ironically, what these clams are failing to realize is that the whole reason they’re alive is because they’re feeding off the byproducts of the food chain that fall to the ocean floor. And it all starts with the sharks.

So what does this all have to do with Twitter?

Twitter is a tool. A technological tool, yes. But equally as important, it’s a creative tool. Think of Twitter as a convenient ocean current the sharks have happily discovered, a current that enables them to keep the gills flushed with relatively little effort. Sort of a welcome auto-pilot that keeps you going between the more significant creative jams. Moving forward constantly isn’t the easiest (it’s actually the hardest) thing in the world, and considering the consequences of not doing so, it can be a frightening challenge to keep the water flowing through the gills at all times. Twitter is simply a means of keeping the flow going, as trivial as things may seem from a clam’s perspective.

That’s that. People eat because they have to. They drink because they have to. They sleep because they have to. Writers write because they have to. It’s the hand we’ve been given, and it’s not all fun and games all the time. It can be a painful burden. I suppose you can call it a curse.

Just be glad you’re not one of us.

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