Monday, September 2, 2013

Tortured and "Twitter"pated: Introduction: Shock

Brian and Carolyn (my brother-in-law and sister) challenged me to go a week posting only "twitter" length updates of 140 characters or less.

The above sentence is exactly 140 characters long.

You see my problem?

Here's the whole story. It is, perversely, probably the longest blog post I will ever write.

If you already followed the drama on facebook, let me just mention that I've added in a fair amount of translation and commentary. I broke it up into chunks for your convenience; my facebook friends seemed to find it very amusing, but they got it piecemeal, over a week.

It all started with a rant about the treatment of ward musicians. I don’t even remember now what set me off, but one evening I started writing. Everyone else went to bed and I thought “Just a little longer…another hour…”

I ended up writing all night. I’ve done that before, but normally it has been in the context of “Aaah! The deadline for this research paper is noon tomorrow!”

The voluntary part has happened before, but rarely, and not in years.

In the end, I surveyed my ten-page blog post and wondered “Was this worth it?”

Later that evening, I was chatting with Carolyn and mentioned my foolishness. I quote with minimal editing.

She answered, “Brian, by the way, had a BRILLIANT suggestion last night. He said that you should give yourself your own writer's workshop project. And then he had an idea, namely every facebook post you make has to satisfy twitter guidelines. (You have 140 characters. And only 140 characters).”

[I’d like to point out that Carolyn could have expressed that idea by saying “Brian thinks you should try an exercise. Confine your posts to twitter guidelines: 140 characters, no exceptions.” That would have been 113 characters, as opposed to the 279 she actually used. –ed.]

I said, cogently, “Aaaarghhh…? Eeeeek….”

Carolyn added, helpfully, “And you’re not allowed to say ‘see my blog: hyperlink’”.

(Curses! She had exactly anticipated my brilliant plan to circumvent the rules.)
I mulled, pondered, and ruminated. (Because if I accepted, I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things for a week.) “Are you saying,” I asked, “that I’m long-winded? And not disciplined?”

“I just think it would be funny!” said my sister. “It would make your writing sharper! You should pick a random week and try it.”

This time I mused, reflected, and cogitated. “Interesting exercise,” I admitted. “Like that time I wrote six word and twenty-five word stories.” [See “
Exercises in Concision.” –ed.]

She caught me with my defenses down. I had to admit my misadventure from the previous night demonstrated a need for discipline and brevity. Further, I was sleep-deprived and not thinking very clearly. (Also, I could see the potential for this to be very amusing as I squirmed desperately.)

I accepted.

For that week, August 14th – 21st, I kept my facebook status updates painfully short. I kept comments on friends’ posts short, though I slipped up a few times and forgot to count characters. I neglected my blog. I did write a few emails and engage in some longer online chats, but I think I kept the spirit of the agreement well.

Consolidated below are all the posts and relevant comments. This is kind of like “deluxe edition” with restored cut scenes and director’s commentary. (All post-production commentary will appear in this font.)

You, the reader, can “watch” the entire experiment evolve. You can watch as I stumble, wince, laugh, learn, and ham up my suffering for humorous effect.

As my friends teased, commented, and encouraged, they became part of the conversation, then part of the drama, then integral to the story.

When I asked for the impetus behind this idea, I learned that Brian dislikes lengthy reading. Apparently he has suffered from wading through my verbose posts. I’m torn between saying “nobody forced him to read them” and gushing “it’s so sweet that he soldiered through them despite this antipathy!” I’ll go with the latter.

@ Brian: Thanks for the “twitter” idea. Thanks also for your sacrifices in my behalf. You aren’t required to read my long blog posts, but I very much appreciate the effort. But “b-i-l”--you are required to read this blog post, though. It’s part of my revenge.

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