I was recently told, in a rather brash manner, that people only read 15 seconds of online copy before moving on to the next article. Any writing past that is “antiquated and wasted energy.” I would brush it off as laziness or a disinterest in creating thought-out work, but it isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. It’s everywhere. Be short and sweet, know your audience, follow the trends, keep it simple. If you veer away from this, people start giving you the old, “Well then you just won’t make any money from it,” speech–as if they’re a judgmental parent telling you to make a better living, you lazy millennial (please note my parents never said this, nor do I think they care what millennials are). Also, don’t get my wrong. Short pieces can tell a whole story. Like this haiku I just tried to write:
Writing a long post
I blindly bite my apple
I eat the sticker
Anyway, that’s where I’m at this morning. Tired of writer’s block, knowing how to get through it, but losing momentum mid-attempt when I get distracted by BS like this. The past year of my life has been all about facing the conflict between creating material that I care about and adapting to the trends that connect to a large readership (see above). What happens, is that I get halfway through a post like this and start to lose interest, or rather, I get concerned that everyone else has lost interest. And I know the platitudes on the other side of things as well: Dance like no one’s watching! Who cares what everyone else thinks! You do you! So why don’t these work? And why are we often challenged when we create work like no one’s watching? Why are we so affected by these outside forces in a field when introversion and self-reflection is often the key to creating a relatable work? It feels backwards: crawl into yourself and block everything else out so you can relate to others…but don’t forget to consider what other people will connect with before climbing into your creative cave to create something personal. Eeeeeee!
*hides under desk*
So do we bother to get to know our audience if we’re supposed to create something unique? Or do we reach a larger audience by falling into the 15-second rule and then later, BAM, hit them with what we really wanted to write–the meaty artsy crap about feelings and the mysteries of the universe? By the way, if you’ve made it this far, you apparently read more than the average person. Congrats, you!
The main question is: If we create something in the forest, and no one reads it/comes to see it/commends us for doing it, does the art matter? In other words, should we create for us, even if a large number never hits “like.”
I know my answer, I’m more just ranting because this conversation made me so angry.
There is no doubt I will never successfully write for “the masses.” I’ve tried, and it always turns out sounding like poop. But here’s my bigger question: who are these people disinterested in reading in-depth material? I don’t doubt that the numbers are correct, but why should we encourage them? If this is the norm, it’s a terrible norm. This viewpoint also ignores the rest of the world who do take the time to read books, go see plays, or above all, realize that they do not need to change their attention from piece to piece, or image to image, every 15 seconds.
On a larger scale, the fight for minimum effort and maximum comfort is a feisty one. It’s not just about reading and entertainment. Try mentioning that you’re improving your diet by giving up, say, processed foods, and watch the world erupt into madness. Go type in, “Gluten-Free Scam” to Google and check out the amount of effort the internet has thrown into nosing into everyone else’s diet decisions. Yes, a healthy amount of skepticism about diet trends is incredibly important, but if I choose to give up grains, what’s it to you? (Unless you’re the grain industry…then I know.) If I’ve suddenly started boasting the health benefits of heroin, then by all means, speak up! But the way my individual body responds to gluten, or any other ingredient, is no reflection on you.
Okay, gluten rant over. But it’s related. It’s about the fear of seeing others veer away from status quo. It scares some people into believing that they too, will be forced to be different. Heaven forbid. Way back when, when I first started talking about hiking the Camino, the first reaction I often received was, “Wow, I couldn’t do that. That’s weird.” ….I don’t believe anyone said anything about you doing it, but good to know! It’s the opposite of projection. It’s assumed projection. Psych-people, help me out–is there a term for this? Assuming everyone else’s choices reflect on how you should live your life? I’m sure that has a name.
Throughout this conversation about the 15-second rule, all I kept thinking was, “Why are you afraid of me or anyone else putting in more effort than the average Joe?” What is it so scary to someone with a structured lifestyle, who enjoys the standard trends, that someone marches to their own drummer? You follow society! I’ve always slightly envied people who seem comfortable with doing what the marketing companies tell you to do. Trust me, high school would have been much easier for me if I had been like you. But now that I’m happy in my discomfort, and well, my “weirdness,” are you frustrated that I don’t want to fall into line as well? One of my biggest pet peeves in the blogging world are article titles that read, “I do this thing now, and you should too.” I do not give a hoot about what you think I should do. I do, however, love to read that it worked for you! Neato! I will consider if it it a proper choice for my lifestyle as well. I will NOT however, respond in the comment section with a rant about how you can’t tell me what to do, I’ll do what I want, I’ll be in my room eating a sleeve of Oreos and you can’t stop me.
How exhausting it must be to feel that everyone’s life choices are arrows being shot at you from all directions all day long. If you know what you like, trending or not–own it, let it be, and go on with your day.
Okay, so I wrote something, and I’m going to hit Publish in a few moments. Thus, hopefully, breaking my writer’s block. If you’re reading this, I have succeeded, despite my concern that this is a cyclical rant that the masses won’t want to read.
Go be weird today, folks. And try not to worry about how the masses will respond, they seem worried enough as it is.