A few days ago, I posted a piece about attention spans and when people will “bail” from reading additional text.  As a writer, it’s helpful to know what’s happening in the reader’s mind so we can craft ways to capture their attention.  And that Bailer’s Point actually ties in nicely with the fourth “Brain Rule” discussed by John Medina. *

People won’t pay attention to boring things.

It seems that when we encounter any stimulus our brains go through a number of discrete phases to process that information.

Intrinsic Alertness – our ability to detect something.

Phasic Alertness – our ability to focus on that something.

Executive Network – our ability to decide what to do about that something.

And despite what people may think, the brain’s attention spotlight can only focus on one thing at a time.  We process concepts sequentially.  Task shifting, or multi-tasking, delays accomplishment time by 50% and increases errors by 50%.  We’re just not wired well to do multiple things at the same time.  We are also much better at detecting patterns and then extrapolating the meaning of events than we are at registering and remembering the details of those events.

We saw before how readers can check out within seconds if their attention is not corralled, and listeners, it turns out, can only hold on for about 10 minutes before tuning out.

So what enhances or extends attention spans?  How can we reach into the readers’ or listeners’ brains and shake their frontal lobes around without screaming PAY ATTENTION?! !

We can add emotion!

It seems emotion coupled with information not only captures attention, but it significantly improves retention.  People remember personal stories bathing in feelings better than they will rote recitations of facts, no matter how intriguing we might think those facts are.

As writers, we need to try to engage all of our reader’s senses.  So they can taste it, hear it, smell it, feel it, breathe it in.

But it also turns out that we need to give people frequent breaks.  As a lecturer, that may mean switching topics or keeping the presentation short.  As a writer, it means we need to effectively use punctuation.  Let the reader come up for air once and a while.

That’s one reason I like to use sentence fragments.  Even though were not supposed to 🙂

And on that note, I’ll call it quits today.  Except if I can hold your attention a little longer, there are a few more fun pics at the bottom of this virtual page.


Feature Photo: An old hotel in an 1800’s mining town has a character all of its own, but by bending the light and showering it with color, we add emotion.  Fire!  It draws in the eye and holds the attention.   With blogging, I’ve found that a great pic can really draw in the reader.  Of course, what I think is great others might find boring.

Past Posts on Brain Rules by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist.

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive


I hope you all have a day of excitement filled with brain candy.  Here are a few more pics I played with, turning the ordinary into a little something more.

Bisbee - 53 - Castle Rock + CF


Ramsey Canyon 25th - 7 - CF13-26

Horseback Riding - 1 +MC100+Enamel

Miller Canyon - 3 +Solarize 245

Sunset from the Little House + Enamel


20 thoughts on “BORING”

  1. Please don’t underestimate the ability of individuals! I think most people can pay attention for longer than ten minutes. Everyone is not as limited as the current resident in the White House!!! (It is well known he has a limited attention span).

    As a recently retired educator, who taught for 36 years, the average school day was 7.5 hours. Granted, I didn’t lecture that entire time, but children CAN concentrate longer than ten minutes. Classes are an average of 60 to 90 min. long. Even elem. students are required to take state tests for several hours, so if they can’t focus for that length of time we are in big trouble! Those are the current state requirements!!! Even for First graders!!! You underestimate our population.

    I was an actress before I was an elementary school teacher, so in the classroom I did put on quite a show and used a lot of hands on exciting projects to keep students motivated. But, readers and audiences CAN listen for lengthy periods of time. The key is getting them involved and interacting. If they are part of the action, then they listen and enjoy what is being said.
    PLUS, now I volunteer my time writing a poetry curriculum for a spoken word network and once a year we have state competitions and the students from all over the state of Florida compete and present their individual and group poems. The audience is VERY engaged. Spoken Poetry today is very animated, and different from the “Beat” era, but it is indeed passionately received and students listen for hours.

    People watch movies and plays and pay attention. We read books. It’s all about moving the action forward and exciting characters.

    I liked what you wrote, but please don’t compare the rest of us with the fool in the WH who is NOT a reader and has no ability beyond three min. to pay attention. Most people CAN pay attention.

    I have former students to this day who are grown and still contact me through social media. They remember so many of the silly things we did in class. And amazingly they recall every idiom I used and every Shakespearean quote I stated as well as some of the old rock music I played while I took the roll and they danced to get the “wiggles” out of their system so they could sit and listen to the first lesson the day. Kids and adults CAN listen and concentrate. I promise. But, yes, they do need movement breaks. That’s where music and dancing come in. You will never see a frown in a room filled with dancers. Only smiles!!!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. LOL ! I didn’t mean to over generalize or make comparisons to someone who can’t even complete a coherent sentence. The author of the book I referenced, Brain Rules, agrees with you completely. His point was that it was up to educators to change it up, keep it exciting and be aware of when you may be losing attention. That’s why I talk about using punctuation in writing. Some research shows that people won’t read much either, but many of my longer pieces have been well received, and a few published. So you are quite correct. If you keep your classroom engaged and interacting, they are with you. I found the same when I taught law classes – I used real case examples and pulled the students into the discussions. It was fun, they had fun 🙂 The poetry reading you describe sounds great. I’d like to find a group like that where I am. You must be a great teacher. I know I had a few brilliant ones in college that I’ll always remember 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I probably got defensive since education is so important to me and now so many people are letting this administration become a model for not doing their homework finding factual information and for justifying a nationwide lack of reading.
    And absolutely, in today’s technological world, teachers have to reach students in a more animated way. I began teaching without even a phone in my room and my last few years I wrote a grants to get smart boards and other technology in my school which allowed me to teach a class and connect with students in London. It was amazing to see the changes in what engaged project based learning, combining student input, technology, and good old brain power could do. Active learning creates active thinkers.
    As far as the poets and the poetry network I work with, here is a link which was actually put together by a former student of mine, who now is an Emmy award winning producer at a local TV station. It involves the poetry students from Marjory Stowman Douglas High school. These students are part of the poetry network I volunteer for (and wrote the elem. and middle school poetry curriculum for.) These are the high school students, which I happened to judge in one of their competitions as they proceeded to the finals. Watch… the kids are amazing….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I very much agree. No one should alter their writing to try to capture a certain demographic, but I do try to write better and learn ways to make the reader feel what I’m feeling and see what I’m seeing 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with Lesley, in principle, but I think there are some subtle contexts, one is that blogging communities in general are intentional and more likely to persist, but, there are many I live among who are intentional about their personal interests only, so how to whet their appetite and hold them.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I had to smile when I read this.. talk about being on the same wave length! Daydreams and the Senses.. 🙂 Back to your blog.. I definitely prefer reading about personal experiences, feelings, with descriptive visuals woven into the stories. You have a way with words that piques our interest. They transport us to beautiful and interesting places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You just made my day 🙂 No better compliment. I hope to get better at painting those pictures with words. I love your blog because you have such uplifting and beautiful messages. They can always shine light on the things that make life worth living. Linking the senses to the virtues was genius 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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