We live in what has been described as the “attention economy.”
In the attention economy in which we live, our attention spans — yours and mine — are an increasingly rare and valuable resource.
Advertisers need not just our eyes, but our attention, to sell their products and services. Social media companies require us to use their platforms — and they work hard to addict us to them, by design — so that they can sell ad space, too.
Even politicians vie for our constant attention, but not just the positive and approving sort. The savviest — and most deplorable — sorts value the negative kinds of attention, too. Why? Because we live in an attention economy. And in an attention economy, any kind of attention is valuable.
I wish it wasn’t this way, but living in the attention economy is something that we’re all stuck with — hopefully not forever, but at least, for a while.
What does that mean for you and me, as storytellers?
Well, the good news is that gross attention-seeking behavior isn’t the only way to thrive in an attention economy. Our stories are a resource — a more holistic and honoring form of currency — that we can use to not just survive, but live well, in the attention economy.
Stories have always been valuable to us humans as a species. Our brains are hard-wired for story. And, making an active practice or experience of “storying” our memories, self-conceptions, fears, hopes, dreams, and desires is a way to heal, grow, and live a meaningful life.
Thankfully, these wholesome and fundamentally “human” ideas also apply in the modern attention economy.
Our stories, in other words, are a currency.
The stories we live, write, and share, alike, provide us with enriching opportunities to connect with others, invite collaborative relationships, and much more.
And yet, not all stories are created, or shared, on equal footing.
There are many kinds of stories that get shared across the Internet and social media today, but of them all, I tend to see two distinct categories of personal stories that get shared by creators, makers, even coaches, and business people as forms of “currency”. They couldn’t be more different.
The first kind of “story currency” is the sort of stories that grab attention, like we’re far too used to seeing all over the Internet and social media these days.
The second kind of “story currency” is the kind I prefer, and advocate, and think you will be far more in favor of, yourself—the kind of stories that honor attention, which are harder to come by.
Stories that “grab” vs. “honor” attention
Stories that “grab” attention are more or less intrusive in their tactics and, as a result, the attention that those stories receive is hollow, temporary, and fleeting.
You know stories that grab for your attention.
They may have clickbait-y titles, make promises they never deliver on, or resort to a constant, exhausting sort of performative oversharing.
You might look, however briefly, when “grabbed” at by those stories, but you’re bound to move on, pretty quickly. Your heart won’t linger on a story that grabs at you. Because love, respect, kindness, and care are not unilateral propositions — we can’t be strong-armed or forced into genuine relationships. Relationships are not one-direction experiences.
(Have you ever truly fallen in love, made a friend, or felt a connection, because of one person’s repeated, if intrusive, “grabbing” at your attention? Hell no!)
Stories that honor attention are different.
Stories that honor attention are considered, caring, and deeply authentic.
They invite reciprocity.
They open a door, lay out a welcome mat, or invite you in for a cup of tea.
Stories that honor attention may divulge small, selective details about our lives and our experiences, without resorting to performative vulnerability — let alone, exposing all of our pain, struggles, wounds, hurts, or traumas, in a one-sided bout of mega-oversharing.
Stories that honor attention land at the heart because they are patient and respectful of the ones who have been so generous as to invest a precious moment of their limited attention with us.
Stories that grab attention say, “I don’t know you, but I need something from you, so give it to me—right now.”
Stories that honor attention say, “Hello. I see you. Here I am.”
Stories that grab attention are a drive-by burger and French fries: it fills a hole, however temporarily, with an ill-suited smattering of hollow calories.
Stories that honor attention are a hand-cooked meal, an investment of love and care, an expression of artistry. Stories that honor attention respect tradition, evoke a memory, create an invisible bond between maker and recipient, and establish an intimate, felt experience that is almost certain to endure in the emotional world of a reader.
In the attention economy, there are stories that “grab” for attention, or stories that “honor” attention.
Which do you prefer to consume?
Which do you prefer to create, capture, write, and share with the world?
(What kind of storied world do you want to be a part of?)
Writing the Personal is for storytellers who want to tell stories that honor attention, not those who want to grab it.
Our next, live-guided installment of writing class, which spans four spacious and inspiring weeks, begins on Thursday, February 23, 2023, and features new benefits like being…
- 100% homework-free, so you don’t have any added pressures besides coming to class!
- A whole week longer, including 33% more in-class time, giving you even more quality time with me and your classmates!
- The most affordable pricing yet, with registration at $199 (early bird) and $219 (standard), which saves you 10-15%!
And in another gesture of supporting your budgetary needs, we now have payment plans available through Klarna and Affirm, which allow approved users to pay in smaller installments over time.
Just select your pricing tier and you’ll see the options to pay using one of those secure services.
These changes are all thanks to the incredible feedback and support from our past students in 2022. And in 2023, I’m eager to host you in writing class, so that you can write stories that honor attention, just like you feel called to do.
Join me and a small class, live on Zoom, for an interactive learning and creative experience, starting Thursday, February 23, 2023.
You’ll leave writing class having written a story of your own, and be guided by an enriching, personal relationship to personal narrative storytelling.
Learn more now or register by February 9 (this Thursday!) to save $20.