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I can’t stop writing about Mark Twain. Or Samuel L. Clemens. Not sure which one was the real writer in that family.
At any rate, the greatest of American writers is still teaching the rest of us schmucks. We can still learn from the man who once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It was recently noted that Google remembered Twain’s birthday – No. 176 – and the Christian Science Monitor’s Eoin O’Carroll wrote: “There’s something perennially old-timey about Mark Twain, who, as Google reminds us, would have turned 176 today. Perhaps it’s his prose style, which critics invariably describe as ‘homespun.’ Or perhaps it was how his most celebrated stories tended to chronicle an antebellum culture that, even as he wrote, was fading from memory. Or maybe it was that white suit that he started wearing near the end of his life, just like the gentlemanly but ultimately backward Colonel Grangerford in Huckleberry Finn.
“But to his contemporaries, Twain was more like Hank Morgan, the visitor from the future in ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,'” O’Carroll wrote. “A consummate early adopter, Twain was among the first writers to use a typewriter. He also boasted that he was the first person in his part of New England to have a telephone in his house. If Mark Twain were alive today, he’d be using the voice command feature on his iPhone to update his Twitter feed while riding in a Google-piloted Tesla Roadster.
The old Mississippi rascal once said this, after seeing a new invention: ‘Every time I see or hear a new wonder like this, I have to postpone my death right off,’ he told The New York Times in 1906. ‘I couldn’t possibly leave the world until I have heard this again and again.'”
So the online speculation is: if Twain were alive today, would he use social media? Would the curmudgeon think it useful and, perhaps more importantly, would he think it not beneath him?
I tend to think he would have embraced it. Why? Because Twain, like all writers (perhaps this is the only trait we share with him!), wanted people to read his stuff. He didn’t write so that Huck Finn would remain a few lines on scratch paper shoved into a hollow log along the banks of the Mississippi.
No, he loved writing too much for that.
Point being, in his day, Twain very much embraced new technologies. I think we should emulate him in that way, too. I just wrote a blog and linked it to my Facebook page. In just a few minutes, four friends linked to it and all of a sudden, about 1,000 more people were able to read what I’d written (not a boon to the reading habits of many, but still a marvel!).
With a few mouse clicks, a writer today can share his or her scratchings with many thousands of people.
So if you are a writer, struggling to find time to finish-off that Pulitzer manuscript, and you are exhausted from that process … drink a few pots of coffee and stay awake long enough to advance your writing by using social media.
And sharing your brilliance is not the only benefit to readers. Chip MacGregor (ChipMacGregor.com), a terrific book agent, has begun blogging again after a hiatus. His tips and frank advice are among the best in the business, I think. It might be that you too have tips to share with fellow writers; you can do that much more effectively by tinkering with Twitter and Facebook.
I recently discovered, by reading a blog, about Sue Dent, a southern novelist who has a fascinating story. I will write about her soon in this space, and I dare say many writers can learn from her. That wouldn’t happen if Sue had not taken on the added task of utilizing social media.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of moving beyond just the manuscript, or collection of poems. Or whatever it is you’ve written. You must, as a writer, figure out new ways to share what is inside of you with the world. It starts with finding blogging opportunities – new platforms to help expand not only your own writing, but to help the rest of us along the way by sharing your experiences and tips.
Twain was an innovator in a lot of ways and he is still teaching us, even though he’s dead.
Or is he?