Social media and creative writing

As we move away from the traditional pen and paper and further towards the digital age, writers and poets are starting to explore unique ways to showcase their work.

We asked poets Kate Keys, Madison Griffiths and writer Alex Griffin how they have incorporated social media into their writing to such great effect.

Social media, and how to use it

Alex: “I spend a lot of time collaging, researching old forums from doomsday preppers and teen support bloggers, while checking Twitter or messaging my brother Silverchair memes. Across all of those things, it’s all weird traces of emotion shown and not shown, and that’s what keeps me fascinated. I think writing about it and using it in general are inseparable.”

Kate: “For more than eight years, I have been writing and posting a poem a day as @tinylittlepoems on Twitter. Making social media the main home for my poetry got me back into a daily writing habit and led to the development of a very large body of very small work.”

Madison: “I use social media platforms—specifically Instagram—to make my poetry accessible. I think it’s important, when scrolling through any given news feed, to stop. To read a woman’s demands. To understand her call to arms. Especially if you otherwise wouldn’t.”

 What does social media bring to the table?

Alex: “A lot of poems I write begin by stealing a misread line from twitter or recording a gut response to something; and in that way, I’m writing something more honest to my experience than what (for me!!!) would be contriving to try and invent. Also I’m not original or inventive!!! I am a magpie, and thinking about social media and historical archives is the way I find my way into writing about the world.”

Kate: “Social media writing gives me instantaneous access to a large, engaged audience and the feedback they can provide. It’s easy to see what’s working and what’s not, or to reach out and engage with the amazing online literary community.”

Madison: “From a self-publishing perspective, there is certainly an element of immediacy associated with distributing work through social media. It means that I can gauge—depending on the reaction of my audience—how particular poems (their aesthetic, their content matter, and their form) are received.”

 Which platforms do you use?

Alex: “I tend to migrate: I was working with Twitter, and now I am ready to delete it! They are all such different universes, different languages. I was born in 1992, and the internet came into my life maybe around the age of eleven, and I was tentative about it for a long time. I can’t begin to imagine the languages that haven’t developed yet, so I hope it’s one that I haven’t come across yet.”

Kate: “Most of my work has been based on Twitter, which connects me to a huge international poetry community and is the perfect home for short-form poetry forms in particular. I’ve also recently started playing with hand-written poetry-and-bedsheets memes on Instagram, which houses quite a different cohort of visual-based poets.”

Madison: “Instagram. I like how it attracts a vast, diverse array of people. I like how my use of colours is considered when people think to reblog my work. I feel almost anonymous, in a strange way. When I post work on my personal social media pages—like Facebook, for example—I feel exposed to family members, and the people that I’ve grown up with.”

Expanding your audience

Alex: “I am lucky that I have been published by people who are better at promoting and editing and thinking about things. I wouldn’t write or read without the people I have been lucky to meet IRL and http. I have made some really good friends through social media — I want to believe that maybe we would have found one another otherwise, but I’m hermetic, so maybe not!”

Kate: “A best-selling poetry book in Australia is considered to be anything that sells more than 500 copies. By comparison, more than 6,000 people have access to my poems on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram every day. Working in the social media space has led to interviews, commissions, publications and more. My work was even included on a high-school English curriculum on Oklahoma for several years, all thanks to social media connections.”

Madison: “I think Instagram’s format encourages this, for one. I also know that—because I write from a personal place on quite public platforms (such as VICE), a few people that otherwise don’t know me feel as if they do, because they know rather embarrassing or complex parts of my life.”

The limitations of social media

Alex: “Social media is just so meh in our lives. Why write about it? It’s like writing a song about making breakfast or collecting your dead skin in a jar– either pointlessly mundane or just navel-gazingly creepy… There has to be something unsettling, a question unposed or unanswered, and I think social media is full of that, like life, and I like trying to dig. Hopefully something is found. It has to be worthwhile or it’s completely a waste of time.”

Kate: “On a practical level, it took a while to adjust to Twitter’s micro-blog format. But after more than eight years of writing daily poems, I now find it more challenging to write pieces that are longer than 140 characters. Playing with memes and other visual formats gives me more space (and word count) to play with.”

Madison: “There is an underlying pressure to create work in order to stay relevant and promising in people’s news feeds. This seems like an insincere way to go about being an artist of any kind—be it poet, painter, and so on. Now that I have a clear enough understanding of what it is that I do, I don’t feel those pressures as much. I take my time. But I certainly felt that a year ago!”

Xavier, the author of this article, is a year 9 student from the University High School working with the Digital Writers’ Festival as part of his community service project.

Alex Griffin is a critic, researcher and poet. His work has appeared in places like the Lifted Brow, Cordite, Media International Australia and The Age. @griffreviews

Madison Griffiths is a freelance writer, artist and poet. She has regularly published essays, articles and opinion-pieces in the likes of VICE, SBS Sexuality, Daily Life and Overland—as well as literary journals, such as Going Down Swinging. Her work revolves predominantly around global issues pertaining to women, sexuality and race. @madisonrgriffiths

Katie Keys (aka Kate Larsen) is a social media poet, writer, arts manager and non-profit / cultural consultant tweeting a poem a day. She is currently on reading / writing sabbatical. @tinylittlepoems