Over the past couple of months I have been twittering quite a lot. My Twitter account has been in existence for over a year, but I never really used it until recently. Now that I use it, I like twittering a lot. Expressing oneself coherently within 140 characters is definitely restrictive, but sometimes artificially imposed restrictions can also fuel creativity. Poetry, for example, is an outcome of such restrictions; the restrictions with respect to rhyming, number of syllables, and verse length help produce a beauty that no prose can match. But don't get me wrong—I am not equating twittering with writing poetry. My point is just that rules and restrictions can sometimes provide the ideal stage for creative expression. I believe the restriction of 140 characters in a Tweet has helped me creatively express some of my thoughts more parsimoniously. As a kid, I was very fond of collecting quotes, but now I have a few pithy ones of my own—thanks to twittering. The best part of twittering is that tweets need much less time investment than blogs—both for the writer as well as the reader. And because tweets make for extremely quick reads, they typically have a much larger audience than blogs. The RSS feeds which allow tweets to show up as status updates on Facebook further increase the reach of tweets. Many of the quotes that I wrote for Twitter/Facebook have been appreciated by my friends. I certainly feel happy about it. Having an audience that appreciates and acknowledges your words can give a person a lot of satisfaction.
Since the updated status messages on Twitter/Facebook almost always have an audience, one does not have to deal with what Virginia Woolf called "the world's notorious indifference." In her book A Room of One's Own, Woolf writes, "[The world] does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them. It does not care whether Flaubert finds the right word or whether Carlyle scrupulously verifies this or that fact. Naturally, it will not pay for what it does not want. And so the writer, Keats, Flaubert, Carlyle, suffers, especially in the creative years of youth, every form of distraction and discouragement." If the world does not care about Keats, Flaubert, and Carlyle, it sure does not care about Paresh Mishra's blog. In contrast to a hundred who may be reading my Facebook updates, probably just about a handful of people read my blog posts. The stat counter on my blog may show that I have several visitors visiting it daily, but I know that most spend just a few seconds on the page. So, does it make sense to invest time on blogging when the world is indifferent towards it? A few of my friends who used to blog pretty frequently have actually stopped doing so, and are more into twittering and facebooking now. Is it time to embrace twittering and say goodbye to blogging? I think NO.
I use Twitter mostly to express some of my thoughts within a sentence or two. Sometimes a single line can influence people much more than a whole book will ever do. A catchy quote easily attract people's attention, and stays in their mind. But it is not a substitute for an essay where arguments and evidence are discussed in detail—exactly the same way as poetry cannot take the place of prose. Each have their place in this world.
I agree that the world is and will always be indifferent to most of the blog posts that are created—mine included. I would certainly be happy when my blog posts are read by a wider group of people, but more than writing for people, I write for myself. Writing helps me put things in perspective. When I draw a cartoon, I again do it for myself—it's my need for expression. Attention is gratifying, but at least for me, the needs for self-reflection and expression are much stronger than my need for attention. So, "the world's notorious indifference" does not disappoint me much. That said, I also want to make a difference to this world. I would like to inspire people to live a holistic life where they are not consumed by the obsession for greater material success. I would like to inspire people to adopt sustainable lifestyles, and take care of mother earth. I would like to change the world, but I will still be happy if I succeed in transforming at least one person. And I know there is one person who is getting transformed by my writing—that's me. That is the power of writing—if not anybody else, it transforms the writer.