Twitter and Reading Widely

One of the bits of writer advice that I hear often is read. Read a lot and read widely, especially out of your genre. Not only will this help educate you about the world, but it will also educate you about various ways of conveying information. And perhaps most important to a writer, a collection of odd bits of information will serve as tinder, just waiting for the right spark of creativity. I think this is one of the biggest reasons writers should be on Twitter (and you can find me tweeting at @erchristensen).

Forget creating a platform or learning about economy of communication (For now, that is. These are important skills, but they are beyond the scope of this post). Instead, realize that all day long, you get a constantly updating stream of links to articles, commentary, and essays from a variety of viewpoints.

Of course, because it is a constantly chattering distraction, Twitter can also be a huge time suck. Many a writer close down Twitter while they are working. You just need to know how to control your impulses. But that’s true for Twitter and just about everything else.

Anyway, I recently came acros this Vanity Fair article about the French Foreign Legion for example. Not only is it an interesting piece, but to a fantasy writer like me, it’s fodder for all sorts of future stories. Think about it–a collection of outlaws and outcasts, living under assumed names, coming to the only place that will have them. Yet this place is incredibly hard to survive in, let alone thrive. And a good number of the members of the group will be hurt and killed. And yet new recruits show up all the time. Can you see how with just a few tweaks, the story ideas blossom faster than I can write them down?

The thing is, I don’t subscribe to Vanity Fair, and I don’t usually pick it up in the airport or newsstand. Nothing against the magazine, it’s just not my go-to periodical. But I would not have read it without Twitter. See? Twitter’s not all bad. Nothing to be afraid of. So go ahead and join. Follow many, read widely, and write better.

What’s your take on Twitter? A valuable tool for a writer? Or does the distraction outweigh it’s use? Or do you only view it as a platform, as a way to communicate with fans and other writers?