What would craft tweets look like?
I’m thinking here of an (admittedly poor) analogy between craft tweets and craft beer…
I created an experimental Twitter account a few weeks ago. Called @the_smudges, this account builds from an idea I first started floating during formal talks I gave in the fall of 2011, when I was on the job market (at some point, I’d like to give a more meaningful, public version of this talk).
The idea behind the talks, and behind @the_smudges, is fairly simple: in the course of our everyday, we leave traces—like smudges on countertops, light switches, and alley walls, or through our generation of digital ephemera. The smudges of everyday life are thus traces of human (and nonhuman) behaviors and entanglements. And we might think about what those smudges mean as we look for and describe them.
From this basic idea I built an argument about tracing and exploring digital smudges in practice, and I drew from one of my ethnographic studies to ground my argument.
I’m fascinated by everydayness. I’ve been practicing my attention to smudges for a few years now. And I envision @the_smudges as a place where, in one carefully crafted post each day, I might practice the craft of writing rich ethnographic observations that meaningfully evoke ordinary affects (Stewart, 2007)—actions, experiences, potentials, trajectories, intensities, and sediments.
I suppose the audience I have in mind are folks similarly interested in ethnographic observation, everydayness, and broader meanings invoked/evoked by smudges, folds, interstices.
These tweets aren’t meant to be anything more than viable, meaningful ethnographic observations. I’m not trying to write poetry.
I am interested in slowing the pace of flow-based media, of working at and through writing carefully, well. In contrast to my normal tweets, these are much more intentional, slow, meditative. I hope.
So that’s all preamble to the primary purpose of this post: exploring the notion of craft tweets.
Yesterday morning, I hiked to the Kentucky River overlook at Raven Run. On the return portion of the loop, I stopped for a few moments, struck by the nearly fluorescent green moss covering a hundred and more stones on either side of the wooded trail.
The lighting conditions were ideal: a slate gray sky, sun not yet overhead, a damp forest floor, and a winter-driven paucity of vegetation.
Here’s the tweet that I wrote for yesterday:
Beneath this gray sky and its little wet snowflakes all the moss-covered stones in the woods glow, luminescent.— The Smudges (@the_smudges) March 1, 2013
As best as I can recall, here’s the process of writing the tweet:
- First, keep in mind that I don’t carry my phone into the woods; I started thinking about how to represent in writing this moment of ordinary affect as I stood there on the trail in the morning quiet...
- I was still about 2 miles from my car. I thought about the moment as I hiked.
- I thought about elements of experience—sky, colors, sounds?, stones or rocks?, is the light snow important or not?
- I started drafting, in my head.
- I traded words for other words—fluorescent? luminescent? incandescent? glowing?
- As I hiked on, I thought about craft; what if I could workshop this one tweet? How might I slow it down, think it through, iterate?
- I drafted some more, continued to take in my surroundings, avoided slipping in the mud, dreamed of a private wiki for workshopping craft tweets with other folks.
- I thought about craft beer, about my colleagues Jenny Rice (say yes to the text) and Jeff Rice (what is the nature of obsession? the relationship to craft?).
- At the parking lot, I opened the car door, found my phone, typed a draft.
- I put my phone on the passenger seat.
- I slapped my muddy shoes on the pavement, put on clean socks and shoes, unrolled my pants, thought.
- I picked up my phone and changed a word or two. Drove the 15 minutes home.
- I exchanged the car for my bike. Rode to work. Revised in my head.
- At my office, I revised again, materially. Eventually hit send. Unsatisfied.
- I thought of many other things along the way, interwoven with this little task.
All told, my guess is that I took around two hours to compose this tweet. I suppose that’s slow, but my overriding sense was that this writing work should have been much, much slower.
Mostly, I thought of the lower division undergraduate creative writing workshops I attended so many years ago. I thought about how nice it would be to share my draft with peers, to be questioned by them, maybe to get a little defensive even, to work through that defensiveness, to improve.
And then I thought about parking craft tweets for a bit. Using digital workshops. A fermentation process. Add hops (always, always add hops). Think through drafts with others, problematize them, consider pressure points, potential trajectories, affects.
Is this somewhat antithetical to the medium?
Not to me, for Twitter, while certainly carrying some popular genred norms, is nearly as protean as any other genre of written communication and its concomitant constraints.
In other words, this isn’t an argument for what Twitter should be or how others should tweet; just some musing on craft that could apply to any genre. I happen to be thinking about it relative to Twitter because it’s manageable for me.