In school they tell you your paper must be a minimum of five pages long. In the real world you have five seconds to catch someone’s attention before they’re bored and move on.
Getting people’s attention has never been easy, but social media made it a nightmare. Someone reading a book 20 years ago had few other distractions in front of them. Today your phone offers an Olympic competition for your dopamine.
The solution for many writers has been a combination of clickbait, pandering, and fear-mongering. The loudest voice wins. But that’s short-sighted – it’s exhausting for readers, comes at the expense of long-term trust, and it’s easy to mistake people looking at you for people paying attention to you.
I think there’s a middle ground between gaining and maintaining someone’s attention:
Get to the point. Communicating is a two-party transaction: The writer supplies content and the reader invests their precious time and attention. Both are valuable, but it’s easy for writers who labor over their words to only consider their own efforts. When a writer respects readers’ time as much as they value their own words, trust is built, and the irony is that trust makes readers want to read more of your words.
Good stories > deep lectures. You can hear a nursery rhyme as a child and remember it for life, but forget everything you learned about organic chemistry a week after the final exam. Stories stick with people in a way that a data dump (Read more...)