Poetry looks like leather-bound journals, sounds like typewriter keys, and tastes like lukewarm Malbec. Poetry is something you do in your hybrid study-library with your prized, purebred poodle Pascal at your feet.
Sometimes, writers are inherently nostalgic creatures, wanting to crawl back into previous centuries to compose manuscripts. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the more old-fashioned side of the writing community seems to allege its superiority to a new canon of poets: the Social Media Poet. This polarization forces a clash of tradition and 21st century modernization.
I’ll tell you my best-kept secret. I used to be an Instagram poet. And while creative writing programs champion themselves on being the birthplaces of creativity and expression, there are perks to being a social media writer that you can exploit without losing anything at all.
1. Economy of words
Platforms like Instagram and Twitter can teach writers the importance of economy of words. When you only have a limited space, every word has to be intentional and well chosen. This is not to say that you have to write in very short form the rest of your career. However, diligent word selection is a skill in many great writers’ arsenals.
Millions of people across the world use social media everyday. Using at least one form of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for your writing immediately expands your potential audience even as your following is still small. For those trapped in small creative writing programs or writing communities, the internet can be a useful tool to reach a vastly larger audience.
Social media is a great way to build a profile. When you’re a writer, especially if you’re aspiring to publish poetry, you can use pretty much all the exposure you can get. A lot of being an entrepreneur (even if your product is your own work) is being able to sell yourself and your ideas. Having a dedicated following that you can point to as your potential audience when pursuing publication is an advantage not everyone has the sense to capitalize on.
(A caveat here. Do not take your masterpiece and post it on social media, as it sometimes can make it much harder to publish a piece or work at a later point, as it has been released in some form previously. I recommend writing content specifically for your social media accounts.)
4. Other voices
The literary canon has long been excluding the stories of those it deemed unworthy. Centuries ago, when only white men truly were given the leeway to command the pen, how many narratives were lost to the void that is literature. As the canon widens and more diverse writers are finding an audience, social media writing is feeding the surge. While more bitter criticisms of social media cite it as attention seeking nonsense, these platforms allow anyone to become a performer. In a time as polarized and problematized as 2018, everyone has something to say; everyone is a writer.