Do you read books anymore? I mean real, whole, chapter-by-chapter books? When was the last time you sat down with a book and read for an hour straight, without stopping to check your phone for a text or email, or taking a break to look up something on your tablet?
It turns out that online reading–emails, social media updates, articles, even this blog post–is stunting our ability to maintain our focus long enough to read whole chapters at a time in a book. As Hugh McGuire writes in this Medium article on Why We Can’t Read Anymore, which I love so much I want to quote it for days and weeks until people ask me to please shut up:
It turns out that digital devices and software are finely tuned to train us to pay attention to them, no matter what else we should be doing. The mechanism, borne out by recent neuroscience studies, is something like this:
New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.
The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush.
With fMRIs, you can see the brain’s pleasure centres light up with activity when new emails arrive.
So, every new email you get gives you a little flood of dopamine. Every little flood of dopamine reinforces your brain’s memory that checking email gives a flood of dopamine. And our brains are programmed to seek out things that will give us little floods of dopamine. Further, these patterns of behaviour start creating neural pathways, so that they become unconscious habits: Work on something important, brain itch, check email, dopamine, refresh, dopamine, check Twitter, dopamine, back to work. Over and over, and each time the habit becomes more ingrained in the actual structures of our brains.
How can books compete?
Two things I love: books and nature. You too? Then you’ll get as excited as I did over hearing about The Rocky Mountain Land Library, which was profiled in the New York Times yesterday. As the reporter writes:
The project is striking in its ambition: a sprawling research institution situated on a ranch at 10,000 feet above sea level, outfitted with 32,000 volumes, many of them about the Rocky Mountain region, plus artists’ studios, dormitories and a dining hall — a place for academics, birders, hikers and others to study and savor the West.
It is the sort of endeavor undertaken by a deep-pocketed politician or chief executive, perhaps a Bloomberg or a Buffett. But the project, called the Rocky Mountain Land Library, has instead two booksellers as its founders.
I love the idea of residential libraries—who wouldn’t want a getaway that involves long walks, long reading sessions, and wide views? Read more about the project here!
It was Jarrett’s birthday this past weekend, and he got spoiled big-time with this breakfast tray of mini breakfast sandwich sliders (with homemade turkey sausage patties!) and pancake muffins.
As I’ve been talking about on my Twitter, yesterday afternoon I finally caught up on all queries as of February 1, 2015. Writers: if you submitted a query to me before that date and haven’t received a response, please re-send. It may have been lost in the cosmic Internet shuffle!
I’ve also been hearing back from many writers who are looking for a bit more guidance about how to build their platforms, so here’s a quick round-up of resources and articles you might find helpful:
As strange as it sounds, one of the things I love most about my job is analyzing stats. I love looking at the interplay of dozens of different analytics to determine the reach and level of audience engagement of a potential client. And when I sign an author/blogger/entrepreneur who I think is incredibly talented, I love to spend our first few months tweaking and optimizing their platform so that it can grow in the ways that will give them…to be totally wonky…the best ROI.
So what to prioritize? Here are the numbers I zero in on when I’m assessing a potential client’s platform: