You Have to Make People Give a Shit

One way blogging makes you a better writer is it forces you to work hard for your readers’ attention. On the web, it takes less than a second to close the page or click a new link. Your readers are busy and distracted.

This means you must engage the reader out of the gate and take nothing for granted. If you start sucking in the second paragraph, you’ll likely lose the reader’s attention.

Contrast this to school. In a writing class I’m taking this semester, everybody writes essays and turns them in to the class to be workshopped. Our homework is to read each others’ essays. As a writer, you know your classmates and professor are going to read your writing — no matter what. It’s their job. In a recent workshop, I was thinking to myself, “This is good for what it is, but I would never read this in my free time.” I’m sure professors across other disciplines, like History or Philosophy, think this all the time. School, then, might breed a bad habit for aspiring writers and thinkers: the illusion that people will always read your entire essay just because it’s you.

The so-called real world is super competitive. Nobody will read your stuff (well, other than your mom) just because it’s you. The real-world reality is: No one cares what you think. It’s up to you make people give a shit.

The blogosphere, with its tens of millions of competing blogs just a link a way, captures this brutal “life” reality perfectly. Nobody cares what you did yesterday. Nobody is reading your archives. Nobody is reading your bio. Show me something today.

9 Responses to You Have to Make People Give a Shit

  1. Willy says:

    Professors read your entire essay? Peers too?

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Yes. Especially in writing classes.

  3. If you can make it, you simply must sit in on or or more of Susan Shapiro’s journalism classes at NYU someday. She is a genius at critiquing her students’ articles, and does it in front of the class in a very direct, helpful way. Wonderful feedback, too.

  4. Jose says:

    I give a shit Ben.

  5. david says:

    i think ‘credentials’ and accomplishments are important in making people give a shit. when i heard you started a business so young, it made me want to see what you think about the world and i subscribed to your blog.

    even though you write about many things other than business (and generally i enjoy your thought provoking posts!), it was the fact you DID something to get me interested. so many bloggers are in the blahblahsphere.

  6. Krishna Mony says:

    Style plays a major role in making people give a shit.

    The best style as they say is having none at all. Just freewheel your way into the reader’s mind. That’s possible only if you will yourself to be candid and write as you think, not as you would like to be inferred by others.

  7. This is a timely topic. I’m in the process of redesigning my website. After the first round of copy, my editor really dinged me.

    Why? Because I didn’t give the reader enough info to make them give a —- about me. And, if they don’t do that, they probably won’t want to hire me as their designer.

    So, without giving away my blood type and my shoe size, I added more “Martha” information to the second round. The editor was pleased.

  8. Gunnar Wentzel says:

    I agree 100% about how blog attract people. I’m an okay writer but I nothing new to bring to the table in terms of creativity or style. Nor do I wish to profess that I am expect in any particular subject. That is why I’ve never attempted a blog. I believe this has a lot to with the fact that I don’t like to read something twice because of someone decide to be witty/smart in their writing. My reason for subscribing to any blog, particular yours, is the same reason as Jose’s.

    Adding on to what Jose said, its not that I don’t want to “do something”, I just feel that we live in a self-defeating society that caters to the privilege, despite their qualifications. College only served as an example to verify my fears. While I want to do is take part in economic policy creation that actually have a positive impact and aren’t driven politically. Enough of beating my own drum.

  9. Mike says:

    You are a very talented writer. I’d like your opinion, in addition to blogging and writing are there any classes, sessions, organizations that you’d recommend? I’m thinking the Toast Masters for bloggers … Do you know of such a thing?

    Thanks, Mike

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