What would Ernest Hemingway have said if he had tweeted?
What topics would Edgar Allan Poe have blogged about?
What would James M. Cain’s Facebook page have looked like?
It's difficult to imagine how writers managed to sell books in the pre-computer era. How did they get by without web sites? And weren't they awfully lonely without the internet?
The social networking and online marketing made possible by computers and the internet have become so much a part of the writing life that many of us feel we can’t have a career at all if we aren’t plugged in, tweeting, blogging, and constantly updating readers. Writers are everywhere on the internet, blabbing about ourselves. This has a definite downside. We’re like the movie stars who appear on public streets with torn jeans, two-day beards, and dirty hair.
The mystery is gone.
We have no secrets left because we’ve used them to fill the insatiable maw of the blog machine. We’ve written about our bad habits, our phobias, our food fetishes, our pets (alive and dead), our siblings, our parents, our spouses, our kids, the bully who beat us up in sixth grade, the teacher-nun who humiliated us in eighth grade, the waiter who served us with lukewarm coffee and a bad attitude, the drycleaner who ruined our favorite coat, our hangnails. If there’s anything left that our fans don’t know about our lives, all they have to do is wait. Eventually it will all become blog material.
And we complain, incessantly, that we don’t have enough time to write.
How easy the writing life was before the internet existed. Sit down at a typewriter and write – that was it. No e-mail to answer, no Twitter followers to connect with, no blog to produce, no web site or MySpace page to update. I can’t help wondering how certain writers from those pre-internet days would have coped with the demands made on 21st century writers.
Hemingway would have been a natural for Twitter. A limit of 140 characters per tweet? No problem for Papa. And he could have blogged about his six-toed cats. (Hey, I’ve blogged about Hemingway’s cats – see note below – so why wouldn’t he?) William Faulkner would have had a little more trouble with Twitter.
Truman Capote was born to blog – but born too early, alas. Imagine the feuds that inveterate gossip could have ignited, and kept going indefinitely, if he’d written a daily blog. Give Norman Mailer a blog at the same time and we’d really have something interesting going on.
What writers from the past do you think would have embraced today’s online promotional opportunities? Who would have fled in horror from the mere suggestion of blogging and tweeting?
If Agatha Christie had been addicted to blogging, would she have kept in touch during her mysterious 10-day disappearance?
Was Raymond Chandler a MySpace kind of guy, or would he have preferred Facebook?
Would Arthur Conan Doyle have named his blog for himself, or would he have called it holmesmysteries.com?
And what would Hemingway have said if he’d tweeted?
NOTE: I wrote a while back about the USDA’s efforts to remove the 50 or so cats from the Hemingway property, now a museum, on Key West. (Please don’t ask how the Department of Agriculture became involved. I’m as baffled as you undoubtedly are.) If you haven’t read about the resolution already, you might like to know that the five-year battle ended with construction of a fence to keep the felines from wandering off the grounds. Most of the cats are descendants of Snowball, a six-toed cat Hemingway received as a gift in 1935. The USDA concluded that they are healthy, happy, and well cared for by the museum staff.