fcmalby

writing

Writing and the Attention Economy

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This is a post from http://damiengwalter.com/

It was so good that I thought it was worth sharing. Valuable advice for writers…

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As a writer you are asking for the most valuable commodity your readers have. Time. Each of us gets a finite portion. No sum of money can buy us any more. And the demands on it are ever greater.

The novel evolved at a period in history when the constituency of its readers had much more time to waste. Karl Marx would dub them the ‘bourgeoisie’, the section of society who owned the means of production, so profited vastly from industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. The middle and upper classes had time on their hands and little to do with it. The novel became one of the most popular ways of being idle.

The bourgeoisie no longer exists in quite the same way, and it and the proletariat both have innumerable ways of occupying whatever free time is left from work. Yes, there are dozens of forms of entertainment. Films, music, games, sports. But there are also more and more ways for people to invest their time in improving themselves. Is your book really going to compete with the vast range of information available to me for free on Wikipedia? Or the infinite social networks accessible through Facebook and Twitter?

Information of all kinds is becoming a post-scarce resource. While the time it takes to absorb information becomes scarcer and scarcer. And yet many writers still behave as though their product was scarce and the time of readers unlimited. Writing two novels, four novellas and ten short stories a year is great productivity. But completely counter-productive in an attention economy. Because if I read one story by you and its any less than excellent, I’m very unlikely to read another. Your first novel is very important to you, but as a commodity in the attention economy its almost certainly worth less than the value of my time to read it. Which is why the vast majority of material written and published every day on the internet disappears without a trace.

The philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote, “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” As a writer working in the attention economy you should take Pascal’s remark as the first rule of your professional life. Take the time to write a short letter to the world. Churning out fiction can give you the comforting illusion of progress. No doubt you’ll find one market or other to publish it. But think about the writing you really love and value enough to come back to again and again. How long do the best authors take to create their work? Why should you aim to be anything less than the best? Every word you write is asking for the gift of the reader’s time. Make sure it’s worth it.

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Author: fcmalby

Award winning novelist and short story author. Debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, winner of The People's Book Awards 2013. Short fiction published in various online journals and anthologies. Hearing Voices (Kingston University Press, Summer 2015). Unthology 8 (Unthank Books, Nov 2015). www.fcmalby.com

2 thoughts on “Writing and the Attention Economy

  1. Thank you so much, Marianne. That’s very kind. I always enjoy your posts.

  2. Hi Fiona

    Just to let you know I’ve nominated your blog for a Very Inspiring Blog Award’ on my blog (see my blog).

    Please dont feel you have to do anything with it if you dont want to, but in case you do here are the rules …

    1. Display the award logo on your blog. 2. Link back to the person who nominated you. 3. State 7 things about yourself. 4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them. 5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the awards requirements.

    All goods wishes for 2013 and heaps of interest in Take Me To The Castle. Look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂 Marianne

    http://www.writingclasses.co.uk http://www.mariannewheelaghan.co.uk

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