“It is becoming increasingly clear that attention is the new currency. Consider social networks and the businesses we interact with every day. They are all competing for a sliver of our time and attention. So maintaining our attention becomes a competitive advantage.”
Susan Etlinger, a consultant at the Altimeter Group
Reading articles about the impact of technology on our brains can be a little scary. This whole area is becoming a major outpost for neuroscientists, but they can’t seem to agree on whether the avalanche of digital data we’re all trying to dig ourselves out from every day is actually increasing or inhibiting our ability to concentrate.
As writers, this is a huge issue for us. Our ability to concentrate — to give undivided attention to our work — is really our stock in trade. Without this ability, we’re like a Mercedes without wheels: we may look stylish, but we’re not really going anywhere.
Finding the motivation, the inner drive, to devote enormous amounts of concentration to our work can be a constant inner battle. But if the comment above is true and “attention is the new currency,” then our capacity to concentrate is also under siege by that demon of distraction, social media. Put another way, there are lots of people out there whose job it is to see that we don’t do our job, which is screening out anything that interferes with our time on the page.
None of this is good news: It’s tough enough to fight the good fight day after day to maintain our inner discipline without having to battle a bunch of media marketers who are mounting strategic assaults on our attention. All this is made trickier by the fact that social media is an invaluable boon to us as writers because of its power to help us create buzz and reach our readers.
What’s a besieged and beleaguered writer to do? The best help I’ve gotten came from a seminar I attended recently. The woman giving it was a writing pro who makes her living by her pen. Her advice? Keep your writing time and your marketing/social media time completely separate. Don’t mix the two. As soon as you do, your attention is divided and your work will suffer. Any other thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them. Write on.