How Does Twitter Affect Your Creativity?

New to Twitter? Can’t understand the attraction? This video should make things clearer.

One of the emerging trends of 2009 is the rise and rise of Twitter, with analysts predicting this is the year it will go mainstream the way Facebook did a couple of years ago. Doubtless the tipping point was when Twitter was featured in our Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People. πŸ™‚

But what are the implications for creativity? Is using Twitter likely to have a positive or negative impact on your creative work?

No self-respecting post about Twitter would be complete without a sprinkling of tweets from the author’s Twitter followers, so here are some of the responses I received yesterday when I asked ‘Is using Twitter good or bad for your creativity?’:

anything that lets a thought out of my mind is good. @Jagdeep_Kaur

Twitter challenges my creativity to be compelling, provocative or enigmatic in only 140 characters. @Graphicgranola

Dunno, Mark. But I can now say most anything in 140 characters or fewer. Is that good? @jqgill

good for creative research across the web, bad for offline productivity. Creativity is many things. @bridgetmck

great for inspiration, research, sharing but addictive – i’m inspired to do more & be more. 140 characters focuses the mind @hannahknowles

To judge from this sample, there are pros and cons for creative people using Twitter:

Positives

Bridget and Hannah describe Twitter as great for research and inspiration — presumably because of the Medici Effect of all the criss-crossing connections between users sharing conversations, questions and links.

Jagdeep suggests that Twitter is great for spontaneous self-expression.

Graphicgranola, jqgill and Hannah identify the 140 character limit as a creative challenge, a great example of thinking inside the box.

Negatives

Bridget says Twitter is bad for productivity and Hannah says it is addictive — implying that Twitter can suck time out of your day that could be spent more productively (and creatively) elsewhere.


If that hasn’t put you off πŸ™‚ you can get bite-sized Lateral Action on Twitter from Brian and me!

EDIT: Check out Chuck Frey’s list of innnovation Twitter users.

How Does Twitter Affect YOUR Creativity?

Twitter users:

Do you think Twitter has a positive or negative impact on your creativity?

Can you add to the list of positives and negatives?

Do you have any tips on using Twitter creatively and/or avoiding the pitfalls?

Non-Twitter users:

Do you think you’re missing out on creative inspiration or better off steering clear of Twitter?

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a Coach for Artists, Creatives and Entrepreneurs. For a free 25-week guide to success as a creative professional, sign up for Mark’s course The Creative Pathfinder.

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Responses to this Post

Comments

  1. Creativity comes from within, when we are inspired by words it’s because that inspiration was building up within us. Things that appear ‘outside’ to be creative wouldn’t look creative to a person who doesn’t hold a of light of creativity.

    Of course there are pros and cons to everything, but it’s in the contrast that we discover more about ourselves, so even the cons are pros.

    I use Twitter for everything from pieces of wisdom I have, quotes, important updates with this site, articles I stumble upon that are helpful, changes going on in my personal life, and small chit-chat with people that follow my updates. Mostly it’s used to add extra value to my readers, but I have found little gold nuggets of creativity within it with the help of others on twitter.

    Nothing is good or bad ‘in and of’ itself, it’s how you perceive it that gives it meaning and you have 100% control on how you choose to perceive something. Knowing this, you can see where peoples perspective is by how they comment to your question. It says a lot more about the individual than Twitter itself.

    Nice post, very thought-provoking πŸ™‚

  2. I think it’s a plus, for the influx of new ideas and oddball references, *if* you can make sure you’re reserving daily solid non-twitter blocks of time to do real work.

  3. No doubt in my case it’s been positive. There’s a huge collective consciousness to pool from and in many instances it’s opened my eyes to new ideas.

  4. I’m in the positive effect camp. Twitter has opened up a whole network of people to bounce ideas off of and have interesting conversations with (which tend to spark ideas). I agree it can be a time suck, but then what on the internet isn’t? Twitter FTW!

  5. My Twitter experience after 3 weeks:

    Pros:
    Instant, worldwide networking with other people with my interests. I don’t even have to get them to talk to me (or even tell them I exist) They are already talking… I just listen.
    Massive upswing in learning and inspiration. Constantly viewing great works of NEW art (sometimes minute by minute) that other people are talking about, instantly connecting to tutorials and articles I wasn’t aware of, and learning new things I didn’t even know I didn’t know have made the last three weeks like a free college course.

    Con:
    Massive drain on productivity. I have to turn it off whenever I really need to get something done. Yesterday I needed to write a bio for my boss before a meeting he was going to, and 45 minutes of web surfing later, he came back and found I had completely forgotten about it after one twitter check-in.
    When talking to people in “real life” now, I feel like I’m slowing down. They haven’t heard the latest news, concepts, and ideas that were fed to me by my Twitter feed.
    Sometimes I feel like I am learning so fast, that I am forgetting just as quickly! There is no time to implement!

  6. I follow mainly creative people at Twitter, including writers, broadcasters and presenters. I follow some very successful bloggers and communicators. I value those tweets that are entertaining, and keep me informed. I’m not a frequent tweeter myself. I need to concentrate on my writing for much of the time, so I just drop in an occasional update.

  7. I recently asked @Jack Dorsey

    “Did you have a conscious realization one day: ‘ that constraint impregnates creativity to breed more meant words’?

    Which answered simply “Yes πŸ™‚ ”

    And I agree.
    Not that I always practice it, but Twitter has made me
    stop and ponder my message many times over the past
    30 months.
    While that may seem to be simply editing for brevity,
    it has actually forced less lazy language.
    And I have observed the same in people I follow.
    They learn to cut multi-tweets down to one,
    or more clearly relate what they mean, while being more succinct, with the use of more accurate terms.

  8. I like the variety of ideas I come in contact with on Twitter – I try to follow thought leaders for that very reason. It’s also a great place to ask questions and get feedback on ideas I’m kicking around!

  9. Conversely, although Twitter confines me to 140 characters it has helped free up my writing style enormously. As a long-time writer I had developed a fairly formal style, but the deluge of word ‘bites’ and the easy, conversational tone of the social web has now influenced the way I approach new copy. Twitter demands lucidity and promotes collaboration between writer and reader. This is exactly what we want.

  10. Twitter without a doubt screws with my productivity. But their is a sublime sense I get when I can communicate something in 140 characters or less. I like the challenge. And the art. Beautiful tweets are ingratiating. It’s like metered rhyme. Notice poetry went to the pot when people started using free verse. [Not all of it, of course.] But to force yourself to say something in a form always builds your writing skills. So, in a nutshell, Twitter in calculated and confined doses is good for creativity. Thanks for the great post.

  11. I know for sure that tinyurl.com and friends catch the spotlight there πŸ˜€

  12. Since my job is about creating and participating in conversations, I think Twitter is an amazing and productive tool! Where else can you, legally, listen to millions of people talking? So, I guess it’s all about context.

    What is your job, what are you trying to accomplish?

    — HR could use it to find recruits.
    — Sales can find leads.
    — Business dev teams can build relationships at potential partner companies.
    — Development & product teams can learn what makes their customers happy or angry. Or even about why they like or dislike their competitor’s products!
    — Marketing can create ‘creative’ campaigns
    And so on…

    As far as creativity is concerned, I’ve definitely been exposed to sites and ideas that have encouraged my own creative thoughts afterwards!

  13. Using only 140 characters to express something is a good challenge to sharpen our creativity. Before twitter, tinyurl.com and friends is nobodies, afterward, they are very important fellows since you need every spare characters you can use to say ideas. People will appreciate every single character / space more, I believe. What do you think?

  14. I feel if you use Twitter wisely it can really pay off. Don’t spend too much time but make sure the time you do spend is quality not quantity and you see an increase in your web traffic and your business.

  15. Twitter has enhanced my creativity by:

    — allowing me to interact with interesting people in many fields on a continuous basis

    — exposing me to blogs and other resources that have enhanced my understanding of subjects I am interested in

    — showing me the inside of so many people’s heads….how they form and develop ideas, through seeing the link between their tweets, blog posts, videos, books, etc.

    — increased my fluency in using social media by exposing me to how many other people use social media.

    I like to benchmark my work against that of others in my mind; it helps me to stretch my thoughts and to detect and develop very subtle ideas. It’s a joy to be around so many sharp, creative people all the time via twitter. My perception is that my idea production and idea quality have increased in the several months I have used twitter.

  16. Twitter has definitely enhanced my creativity in the sense that it allows and invites me to just play. The 140 character posts are challenging in a delicious way and I often feel like I am writing poetry or haikus. And I love the playful connections that I have with other people. I also notice that I tend to take more risks on Twitter because…. what the hell… it’s only 140 characters. What have i got to lose?

    However, I do wonder how productive i am being with this kind of creativity and if the time I spend on Twitter takes away from time when I could be writing blog posts or working on an e-book, things that feel more tangibly “productive”. I don’t know. One thing that I do know is that I will go onto Twitter when I am too tired or burnt out to do anything else and it can re=energize me.

    Good question…. and I don’t know the answer!

  17. For me Twitter focuses the mind; 140 character really is a great way of ingniting one’s creative flow into a concise and focused idea.

    Secondly, the update count helps me to question my progress and activity online qualitatively and also numerically. It forces me to critically question what i do online and how much of what i do makes sense in relation to where i am headed. I see it as a way of building a personal brand online, so everytime i want to update my status through twitter, i basically ask myself this; “are you just gonna say anything just to increase your updates or are you going to say something, that builds up your brand equity?”

    Also, knowing that there is an update count, forces me to be more productive, since i dont want my followers reading a two month old update of mine! Lol

    This two things are interrelated for me, twitter helps me focus my mind on what “really matters” when i am online and that enhances my personal brand online.

  18. Thanks everyone, like most of you have a similar experience to me — twitter has great creative potential, but it can take a bit of discipline to use it wisely!

    By the way Chuck Frey has produced a good list of innnovation Twitter users, which I’ll edit into the post: http://www.innovationtools.com/weblog/innovationblog-detail.asp?ArticleID=1254

  19. First, I overreached, got way to agitatedly excited about Twitter. I posted too much, @ replied too much, and followed too many.

    Then, after almost deciding to delete my account to refocus on my art and blogging, I realized I needed to refocus on Twitter. As Seth says, every interraction should have connection as its intent. So I scaled back breadth and increased depth, posting events and thoughts relevant to my art, evesdropping less, and following people I feel like connecting with meaningfully.

    I’ve since begun developing relationships that go beyond Twitter with relevance to my art, very rewarding and inspiring ones, with the likes of Brian Clark and John T. Unger.

    Like everything in Life, it’s all about balance and intent.

    Peace.

  20. Daniel – yes, it’s easy to overdose on Twitter. But as William Blake said, “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. πŸ˜‰

  21. Thanks for making the point clearly. Twitter is an extremely inspiration source if you use it the right way. I have helps from friends on Twitter, some tell me their ideas which inspire me.

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