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Where to put your attention when writing for the web

Are you paying attention to me?

Writing means paying attention

As you write for the Web, you have a lot of things to pay attention to--

  • Your evolving understanding of the subject
  • Your sense of your guests
  • Your progress in building the formal structure of your text
  • Your feel for the way your words will work on screen.

In wrestling with a paragraph, for instance, your attention may dwell on the event you are trying to describe, then turn to a particular group who care about the subject, switching back and forth repeatedly as you work to express your idea in terms they will understand.

In editing a passage, you may notice that your attention is following along very nicely until, all of a sudden, you are thrown out of the text, as your attention goes into orbit, launched by some irrelevant but interesting analogy.

You probably direct your attention as you dig into your notes, and you may watch your attention as if it were a reader's, to see how your own text makes it jump, or keeps it hanging in there, as you review your output.

Where to put your attention when writing for the web

As a craft, writing has always demanded concentration, which most people think of as walling out the rest of the world, and putting a tight rein on attention.

But writing for the Web demands that

  • You pay more attention to small groups in your audience, and even individuals, at times
  • You change your habits of writing to make your text work in the Web environment
  • You keep consulting a standard structure to see how you are matching its model.

This multiplicity of points of attention can make you dizzy, if you try too hard to exert control.

Better to relax, and follow the conversation as best you can, recognizing that it's natural for attention to move.

Are you paying attention to me?

People who read what you write are very aware of your attitude toward them, and toward your topic.

Between the lines of your text, they can sense when you have paid attention to them, when you have been sensitive to their concerns, when you share their interests, their passions.

In this sense, attention is the soul's antenna--soft, sensitive, quick, alert.

  • It picks up facts we cannot articulate.
  • It senses moods, possibilities, points of view.
  • It goes where imagining can only follow, inside our own body, and across the Internet.

As the eyes and ears of the spirit, attention is what we communicate. In our virtual conversations on the Internet, attention is the exclamation point.

Bonus

Attention! (Full chapter from Hot Text in PDF, 670K, or 12 minutes at 56K)

Where does your attention go?

 

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