Filling gaps

A few weeks ago I accidentally scrambled my Twitter password. I fat-thumbed a typo somewhere and suddenly I wasn’t able to tweet or read tweets from my stream.

And then, an amazing thing happened! I got back some focus.

I’d be lying if I said I had no idea how much of my attention was being slurped up by the Twitter sponge. I’ve always been aware of it, and meant to do something about it. But I am weak. If you’re hooked on Twitter, you know how hard it is to put down, lest you miss out on — well, something.

Like temporal caulk, Twitter is good at filling gaps. There’s never a moment’s boredom. Riding the light rail, in a checkout line, during the slow parts of a presentation. I’ve rediscovered how much I relied on these thought-free gaps to think about other stuff. Creative stuff, like songwriting.

Days ago I was riding the SLU trolley to the city center. Normally during such a ride, I’d have my eyes glued to my iPhone. But this time, unable to immerse myself, I just stared out the window, watching the scenery. In a few moments, my brain took over, and I had music playing in my head, a tune I’d been working on for years but never could get to work. By the time I’d reached my destination, I had a new melody. By the return trip, I had completed several verses. A few days later I had recorded a demo1

My own lack of discipline is really at fault here. And maybe I just suck at Twitter and you don’t.

That said, if I’ve learned anything about the creative process, it’s this: it’s hard to make something good. Doing hard things is scary because it’s almost a given your first attempts will suck. It’s easier, and often more enjoyable, to spend a lunch break reading tweets instead of writing lyric ideas. Twitter and other media can make me feel connected to the world, but it’s also a great way to idly kill time, and I’m reaching a point in my life where I really, really wish time would slow down, not go faster.

Anyway, I thought I would die, severed from the tweetosphere, but I didn’t. Instead, I started thinking again, reading more long-form stuff, scribbling more song ideas than usual. I still like Twitter enough that I set up a system so I can still tweet from time to time without getting sucked into the vortex of odd Trending Topics. Amazingly, I still managed to hear about Osama bin Laden’s death, Newt Gingrich’s candidacy and just about every internet-fueled Outrage Of The Moment.

The idea that I’ve written an entire blog post (which will be echoed into Facebook!) about this seems completely inane and appropriate.

1 to be released right after all my work with Explone, Kirby Krackle and the secret project are done, I promise.

May 13, 2011