Say It Ain’t So! #attentionspan #reading #writing

Hello, SEers! You’re with Mae, and I have a question for you—are attention spans getting shorter or do we have too much stimuli competing for our notice?

Remember when networks gave television shows an entire season to find footing and develop an audience? Those days haven’t been seen in ages. Now, if a show doesn’t make a splash right out of the gate, it’s a candidate for the chopping blockaxe stuck in top of sawed off tree stump, chopped wood in background.

I used to think I was above that kind of instant gratification—that I would give a program time to win me over. Recently, I realized of the last four Netflix shows I have tried to watch, I ditched three after only ten minutes.

Why?

Maybe because Netflix is like a big TBR.  There is so much content waiting to be discovered, I don’t have the need to let something grow on me. I watch very little TV as it is, so it’s imperative my attention is wooed from the opening scene.

towering piles of books lined up togetherMuch like with a book. I’m willing to bet that anyone reading this post has a TBR the size of Mt. Everest. We’re writers, and by default, readers. When you’ve got that many books waiting in the wings, how long do you stick with a new title if it doesn’t mesmerize you from the start? Are you more willing to grant an extension of time to an author you have read and enjoyed before, as opposed to a new-to-you-author?

I’ve gotten to the point where if a book doesn’t deliver in 1-2 chapters, I usually DNF it. I say “usually” because sometimes I will go back and give it a second chance, thinking my mood wasn’t right at the time (I’ve had a handful of those books turn out to be gems). For the most part, however, a DNF is a DNF.

What does that say about me? Has my attention span shrunk, or are there too many titles clamoring for my notice?

It makes me realize this is how agents and editors must feel. How long will they consider a submission before moving on to the next? If you’re looking for either, you can see the importance of making a strong impression from the get-go. That doesn’t mean your submission has to start with an explosive bang, dropping your reader into the middle of action. But it does mean you need to deliver a polished submission which engages the reader and—in the case of seeking an agent/editor—back it up with a strong synopsis. You don’t want to end on the DNF or rejection pile because you’re only one of many vying for attention.

Now it’s time for your thoughts. As writers and readers, have we become impatient? Have our attention spans grown shorter over time, or are we victims of being bombarded with too many options? How long do you give a book before you DNF it? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

104 thoughts on “Say It Ain’t So! #attentionspan #reading #writing

  1. Excellent post Mae and question.. I probably give up after three chapters in a book and part of that is down to personal experience, and the older we get the more we have seen and done that influences the way we view content. We are also exposed now to so much detail in good television dramas and movies that it has coloured how we look at the stories in books. Especially crime and science fiction. A writer these days in those two genres needs to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding pretty quickly to engage readers. As to television and movies… the one good thing to come out of Covid-19 is that they are going to have to cut back on the gratuitous sex scenes.. I know they want to start the series with a bang or shock value but for me it is lazy scripting and direction…and they also feel it necessary to share all kinds of body functions that we all have, and don’t need reminding of… not sure when I became a grumpy old woman!!! Sally

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    • Sally, thanks for such an insightful and thoughtful comment. I completely agree that the older we get the less tolerant we are for what we’ve seen before. I don’t want to view it as a “been there, done that” type of philosophy, but in many cases it applies, and does color how we look at stories in books. On the flip side, as a writer, I always worry if I’m on par with my plots because of what is shown on TV and in movies, especially when I’m writing mysteries with crime scenes. As for gratuitous sex scenes, I could do without them, not only in movies and TV, but also in books too. Again, maybe that is part of my getting older.
      Thanks for visiting and joining in the discussion! 🙂

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  2. I think you’re spot on about the ‘too much stimuli competeing for our attention’ more than a shortening attention span. I’m like you, excessive TBR pile (as well as a pile of part started shows on Netflix). And, like you, I generally give a short amount of time before DNFing a book. A chapter or two. However, I WILL give extra time to authors I know I’ve enjoyed in the past (recently finished something less than stellar that I would have DNFd, but I love the author so stuck with it). There’s just too much out there for me to stick with something average unless I have a very, very good reason to. I don’t feel bad about this, it’s just the way I think we have to be these days. Great topic. Makes for very interesting discussion.

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  3. Great post Mae. I think most of writers have a cap where it’s time to leave because of all the reasons you mentioned. I’ve done the same with ditching shows on Prime that didn’t grab me first half of show. 🙂 Books, the same, two chapters max before folding, and maybe longer for author’s I’ve already enjoyed. 🙂

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    • We sound almost identical in the time we give something to grab us. I remember when I was younger and time was more of a luxury (although I never realized it then). I was far more willing to give a book time to hook me, but then I didn’t have the mammoth TBR I have today. I do think I ditch a TV show far more quickly than a book, so I suppose that is some kind of plus, LOL!

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    • Far from it. I am so right there with you. I love reading, but I want to read something that sucks me in and mesmerizes me. If I’m not enchanted after two chapters, I’m moving onto something else!

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  4. Interesting post, Mae. I’m trying to be more choosy about what I read, but I seldom will put a book down once I start. It might take me a long time, but I usually slog through. I think that’s a trait I’ve inherited from my parents. That can be a blessing or a curse. I don’t know why I don’t feel the same about Netflix. I have no problem shutting off a program I don’t like there.

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    • Maybe not being able to put a book down in some way relates to your background in education, Pete–combined with what your parents instilled in you. I don’t have the same staying power when it comes to a book that doesn’t grab me. There are just so many I want to read and just not enough time. As for Netflix, I will easily switch off a program that doesn’t appeal to me. I think that’s far easier than DNFing a book!

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  5. We expect everything instantly and it has significant ramifications on our thinking and attention.
    Enjoy your posts. Check me out if you have a chance. I just started. Have a short piece on Camus and happiness. Dobetterwithdan.wordpress

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  6. This is a great post. I even took the time to read all the comments. I think it’s an algebra problem to be honest. Time is more precious now, but there is also more competing for our attention and shopping dollars. I’m from a small town. If a novel wasn’t on the twirly rack at the drug store, it wasn’t available. We had a library, too, so it was an option. We had three television channels, and no video recordings. One movie theater had an offering that stayed for a week. In the summer we also had a drive in theater where I spent many happy hours. Today, we have Amazon, and selection isn’t limited by the Big 6 (Now 5). We have all the subscription services for viewing, along with the ability to record and watch later. We compete with video games and YouTube. We have to be more selective, because we can’t do it all. I love the part of storycraft called the ‘day in the life’ to introduce characters, but have reduced or eliminated it in my own work to a large degree. Yak Guy awoke in the desert with nothing to compare his life to. I dealt with that via small dribbles of back story. I may not lead the pack, but I can learn. My short story collections sold well. The Hat did the same, and I think people prefer a shorter length in many cases. I know I’m in the middle of an epic fantasy trilogy right now, but you can bet Lizzie and the hat will continue in smaller doses for readers who prefer that length.

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    • I think shorter length stories are gaining in popularity, Craig, and have been for some time. Many people want to read but don’t want to invest the time of becoming engrossed in anything of length. For myself, I like both, although I am more partial to longer works. And if a series hooks me, I’m all in. I’m a fan of one that is at book #20 and another where I’m currently at book #13 out of 16. So, I go back to if my attention span is snagged, I’m hooked for the long haul, but if it wanes (I’ve read a few series where I didn’t have staying power), I’ll bow out with out issue.

      I loved hearing about the town where you grew up. I have fond memories of going to the local theater with friends. I also remember the limited channels we had (3 plus public TV). It’s amazing how times have changed. I think in many things I am set in my ways, which is probably why I am not a fan of online video or audio. At least when it comes to books and reading I am more adaptable, LOL.

      So glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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  7. I am definitely not an instant gratification person. I am a saver and have no problem waiting for good things to come my way. Lol! That trickles into my reading. I will stick with a book until the end unless the writing is just horrible. I don’t mind a slow buildup. 🙂

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    • Good for you, Yvette, on having that measure of patience. I don’t mind a slow build either, but I have to be interested in something at the beginning to make me go the course. I think I had more patience for that when I was younger. Now, I’m more likely to DNF a book if it doesn’t grab me within a chapter or two. Part of me hates being that way, especially when I put that in the context as agents doing the same!

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  8. So much out there and a kindle so full, I often try to download eBooks I already have. I generally try to give them a go and read a few chapters before DNF. I have tried a second time of a few and had to keep going! I’ve got many book reviews to write and so many more books to read/review. Late night, I like to relax with a favorite TV show before falling asleep. My attention span is not what it used to be!

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    • My Kindle is like yours, Bette—bogged down and overloaded. Which is why I probably give most books only a chapter or two before moving onto something else. I tend to watch a TV show earlier in the night then wind down with a book before going to bed, but whatever the sequence you choose, it’s all good, LOL!

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  9. What an interesting post, Mae. I don’t know if I’m more impatient or if, as I get older, I am less willing to spend time on things I don’t enjoy. There’s only so much time left, and there are billions of good books (less good shows, but… same idea). I give a book 3 chapters. My decision is almost always based on the quality of the writing. I can put up with a lot if the words are luscious. 🙂

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    • Diana, I love luscious words. I can get lost in lyrical and dense prose, so I’m with you on forgiving a lot. I’m also with you on not spending time on things I don’t enjoy. If I’m intrigued, I’m all in for the long haul! 🙂

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  10. Hi Mae, you’ve touched on a complex issue here. I don’t think my attention span gets shorter. If I liked a book, I’d get the paperback and could curl up on the couch to read and emerge myself in the scenes. I think there are several issues here.

    Quality of contents. May it be TV shows, movies, books, or blog posts. There are so many low production shows and movies out there. I don’t want to waste my time in junks, like junk food. I don’t eat too much so everything I eat counts for nutritional values. I don’t eat junk food (maybe a little). My husband and I are watching the old movies lately. I even want to watch again Gone with the Wind, War and Peach, Dr. Zhivago. They are long movies. I don’t mind spending the time because they were good productions, good stories with great qualities. There were so many reality shows for a while. The show business was cutting short by not spending time to write scripts. I had never sat down to watch reality shows. I felt they were cheating.
    We have choices of books but we don’t read all the books because we want to read good quality books not junk books. We want to make our time valuable and beneficial in reading good books.
    Our life is complex. I try to imagine living in a English countryside with nothing much to do but maintain a simple living. But many of us have choices even when we aren’t living in big cities. We chose to include work, family life, social outing, social media, entertainment, etc. We only have 24 hours a day compared to people with a simple life. We could only give so much attention to each in order to keep all that we chose. I have many hobbies and wish to have 3 parallel life spans to enjoy them all. Since I don’t, so I may give little attention to each and keep all of them.
    Instant gratification surely is something fostered by the culture and media. We have a new habit encouraged by the media and journalists and writers of certain genres to read lists, so we know we’re not getting into long articles and find out we aren’t getting anything out of it. I’m so used to reading lists now, sometime I only read the subheadings without reading the contents. I only read the contents of things I don’t already know.

    Thank you for your interesting article and questions, Mae.

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    • Miriam, when you mentioned reality TV, my stomach plummeted. Like you, I think it’s junk. Beyond junk. I absolutely don’t have a single shred of patience for it. My mother introduced me to a lot of old movies, including many classics and black-and-whites and I do love them. Like you, if I find something that’s intriguing I can spend hours on it, including a good book, especially on a rainy day. I love curling up on the sofa and losing myself to a world between pages.

      I would love to disappear into that English countryside with a simple life. I seriously think I should have been born in an earlier time, LOL.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed response. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

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  11. For me its lack of time. I used to buy or check a book out of the library and that’s what I read. Now my pile is stacked so high, if by the end of chapter 3 I’m not in – I move on. Sometimes, if I like the author from past books I might push on and get lucky. You make a great point of how editors must feel with their slush piles. If only I didn’t need to sleep…lol. Great post, Mae:)

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    • Think of all we could accomplish if we didn’t need to sleep, LOL! I can so relate, Denise. And I’m also the same in that I will give a book a longer chance if I’ve read and enjoyed the author before. I’m more likely to DNF with an author I haven’t read in the past.
      When I put this in context with agents and editors with slush piles, it is such an eye-opener!

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  12. Great piece, Mae! For me, it’s fitting in what’s expected in an increasingly crowded life. In my twenties we had three or four TV channels, news was available twice a day and there were no computers let alone the Internet. I’ve met so many interesting people through blogs that I could easily spend my whole day on them – and I’m trying to cut back now. It feels like a betrayal not to support those who support others but I’m struggling to cope with the self-imposed demands on my time. I have far, far more books on my TBR pile than I’ll ever be able to finish and, as a consequence, I give a new book several chapters to make an impact and if it’s badly written and ‘flat’ then I’ll eventually leave it and move on to the next one. At the back of my mind is the thought that whilst I’m spending my time on something that I’m not enjoying, someone else’s book is languishing in my TBR that might be a gem. It’s the same with TV – if I’m not enjoying something then it’s better to use that time on something else such as reading! It’s less of an attention span issue, for me, and more of a need to free the grain from the mountain of chaff. I’m most of the way through CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series and have no issue at all with dedicating my free time to books that I’m enjoying – happily burning the midnight oil.

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    • Yep, I am the same way. I can fully immerse myself in a series I enjoy (tv or books) and have no qualms whatsoever. But if I’m struggling to be interested in something, I am much quicker to DNF it. Like you said, a lot of it is about finding the good grains among the chaff.
      And I remember the days of 3-4 channels when it came to TV. I also remember when a 60 minute show delivered 55 minutes of TV and 5 minutes of commercials vs 45 minutes of the show and 15 minutes of commercials. Even more bombardment of stimuli!! Ugh! 🙂

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  13. I used to write web content and we were taught short, short, short because people don’t read length content online. So I tend to fall back to that in my blog posts. And I usually stop reading if something get too long.
    For books, I give a book a few chapters and if it doesn’t grab me in, it’s back on to the pile. There are too many other excellent stories and life’s too short. Is that attention span?

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    • Hi, Miss Judy. I don’t think that’s attention span, I just think it’s deciding WHERE to put that attention. And I am fully with you on short blog posts. If I hit one that is long or overly long, I skim it. Give me a short blog post and I’ll read it word for word. Same with videos. I am NOT a fan, but if it’s short (1-2 minute), I’m more inclined to watch. There have even been studies that 1-minute vids get the best results.What does that say about our society, except that we’re already looking for the next stimuli fix.

      There are, however, far too many good books out there, so I’m only in for a chapter or two before moving on as well. It seems many of us think alike! 🙂

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  14. I don’t believe it’s a shorter attention span. When I was younger, I would read a book to the end, no matter what. I could name several that should have been on the DNF list. When I purchased a book or rented a movie I invested my hard earned money (and as a child, that was hard to come by) and believed I needed to get something for that. Even if I went to the library and took the book home, I’d invested in the book. Now, working full time, freelancing on the side, not to mention writing, and my cooking obsession, I don’t have the time to finish a book or movie that just doesn’t make the cut. Even my favorite authors have been put aside for lack of keeping my interest.

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    • I was the same way as a kid, Michelle. I read most every book I started. I felt obligated to finish once I started, given I’d sought them out and spent money on them. I usually stuck with movies, too, but so much has changed today. Like you, I’m pulled in so many different directions and just don’t have the time to devote to books or shows that don’t engage me. I wish there were more hours in the day and I wish I had the luxury to wallow enough to let books and shows/movies grow on me. Maybe when I retire 🙂

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  15. Hi Mae, this is an interesting post. I think this problem is less to do with a short concentration span and more to do with a lack of time. We are all way to busy. Modern women work full time, run a home and raise children. Writers write on top of all of this. We want to use our time wisely so if a book or movie doesn’t deliver quickly we are keen to spend our precious time elsewhere. I must be honest that I rarely DNF a book. Most of the indie books I read are from within our community and very few have disappointed me. Some classic books are slow starters but I am a very persistent and determined lady so I usually push though and become engrossed.

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    • I agree that it isn’t so much lack of attention spans, Robbie – -I have a very long one when absorbed in something– but that elusive beast, time. Like you said, we’re all juggling far too much in a single day. When it comes to DNFs, I read a lot of books within our community but also a lot that are on bestseller charts or come from indie authors I’ve not encountered before. It’s surprising how many bestsellers fall short and disappoint me. I will say, however, that I have never returned a book that was a DNF (which you can do on Amazon). I figure if I purchased it, that was on me, but it disappointing. Fortunately, DNFs are not the norm, but I am surprised when they happen.

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  16. I don’t think our attention spans are shorter because when something DOES grab our interest, most of us (my kids and grandkids included) can stay with it for hours at a time. But we have so many things to choose from anymore, why stick with something that only half grabs us? When I go to the grocery store now, I have to search to find the “original” brand of almost anything I like. There are spicy, herb-flavored, you name it versions of everything. Same with restaurants, TV, and books. The competition has quadrupled. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. But yes, it’s harder to capture someone’s attention than it used to be.

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    • I’m in full agreement with you Judi. My attention span definitely has staying power, but I have to be interested in the subject. If it engages me, I’m all in. Otherwise, I’m ready to move on.

      And you hit on one of my pet-peeves with the grocery store. Anything I want to purchase now has a dozen varieties. Seriously, I don’t need dill-flavored-honey-jalapeno potato chips! 😀

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  17. I enjoyed your pondering, Mae — and I agree. Attention spans of the general human race are certainly shorter. That’s something I tried to convey to executives about their speeches for the past decade. However, silly me, I thought I was immune. Then your comment about Netflix reminded me. I have the same reaction to the Amazon-produced TV shows. Although, I’m still willing to give myself a break from full blame. Yes I want something to capture my attention right away — something from actual storytelling, not necessarily action. The shows that lose my attention, all seem to go to great length to make themselves look important or artsy or intellectual. After a few minutes of telling me no story at all, I move on. They’re trying too hard to “look” superior, rather than actually being good.
    Hugs on the wing!

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    • I like your thoughts on how shows are trying to “look,” Teagan. I can see that reflected in a few I’ve tried to immerse myself in to no available. We have Amazon Prime but I haven’t tried any shows there yet. As if Netflix isn’t enough, LOL! Talk about stimuli bombardment 🙂

      And now matter the gloss or the special effects, it definitely comes down to storytelling as you said. It’s the same for books with me. I prefer character-driven fiction over plot driven. Characters are key to good storytelling whether TV. movies or books.

      Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts today! 🙂

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  18. We-e-elll, young lady: The very fact that you are using those shortcuts — DNF and TBR — that I don’t understand, says something, right? The answer to your top question is Yes and Yes.

    I used to serve on film and TV juries, and while we only jokingly admitted it, many of us were only willing to give ten minutes for a film/TV show to hook us.
    If I get bored by a book by chapter 3, I’ll jump into the middle to see if it improves. But if it’s badly-written, I won’t bother.

    Yes, many of us are pressed for time.
    What does that mean to how we pitch our books? You raised good questions. I, and all authors, need to bear them in mind.

    Stay safe and well, Mae.

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    • Hi, Cynthia! So great to have you drop by. Wow, what an excellent point about the abbreviations and how easily I slipped into them. TBR is “to be read” and DNF is “did not finish.” And here I was lamenting an artist’s use of UR (you’re) in a song title yesterday!

      Time is so elusive for most all of us, especially when we’re balancing writing, and promotion on top of our regular lives. I hate not being able to give something the time it deserves, yet often that feels like a luxury these days. I would love for everything to slow down.

      I hope you and yours are well. Stay safe, Cynthia!

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  19. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Mae Clair has a wonderful post on Story Empire today, all about Time and possible changes in attention spans, and books you do not finish. You’ll want to check this one out. Great food for thought. And as always, please consider sharing it, too, so others can ponder these questions. Thanks, and thanks to Mae for such an interesting post! 🙂

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  20. If I’m excited about the book because of either a recommendation or the description, then I might stick with it a little longer than normal. Otherwise, like you, if the author hasn’t gripped me by the end of Chapter 2, I’m out. Too many books in the TBR pile.

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  21. Great post, Mae. While it’s probably a combination of factors at work, I think lack of time is the biggest one for most of us. And at my age, I can’t waste it. I have a lot of things I still want to get done, and a lot of books I want to read. If I’m not really enjoying a book, I don’t finish it, though I don’t give it a set point at which I’ll discard it. Some, I might toss aside after a few pages, especially if the writing style doesn’t appeal to me. Others, I’ll read a few chapters before discarding it. But if I’m not enjoying the book, the point will come when I’ll put it aside and move on.

    I can’t speak for tv shows as I haven’t actually watched one since I started writing. My spare time (there’s that word again) has shrunk down to only an hour or two a day, and I’d rather use it reading. There are so many wonderful books out there, MANY of which are already on my virtual TBR pile, I figure I can’t afford to waste my reading hours on anything else. Watching tv is too passive for me, too. I like to exercise my brain by using my imagination to picture everything in the story I’m reading–and the good stuff twice! 😀 But the world is changing around us, and people entertain themselves differently. I honestly do think many don’t have the patience for a slow-build kind of book these days.

    There used to be a fun tv program called “Short Attention Span Theater” years ago. They showed movies, and three silhouettes in front of the screen would make snarky jokes and analyze the film. I remember it fondly. See? I did watch tv once. Time seemed to move slower way back then, and I still thought I had plenty of it.

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    • I think time moved slower when I was younger too, Marcia. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so I always made time for penning stories, but once I started publishing and entered the online world, what time I had was quickly gobbled up.

      Reading will always be my go-to as well. I read most every night as a way to unwind after the day. It’s relaxing for me–even if the book I’m reading is a suspense thrilled roller coaster. Lately, I’ve been trying out mysteries on Netflix for an hour or so a night and am loving them. One of the shows is based on a series of books, so I’m already thinking I might like to read a few. I also think I’ve heard of “Short Attention Span Theater” before. When you mentioned the three silhouettes and the snarky comments it sounded familiar.

      Time, of course, is the biggest culprit in how we approach daily life. I often think I should have lived in an earlier age when life seemed to move at a slower pace.

      I’m loving the comments and discussions today!

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      • Great posts = great comments and discussions. I’m enjoying them, too. And I agree with your thoughts on the way Time (or lack of it) is messing with our daily lives. GAH. I don’t want to alarm you, but it gets to be more of a problem with every passing year. STILL, spending it does allow you to accumulate some wonderful memories, so I guess that’s the upside. 🙂

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  22. I agree – attention spans are shorter these days because there’s so much entertainment material out there to choose from. I’ll give a new show one episode – maybe another if it has actors I’m a fan of. With books, if it’s one from my personal TBR, a chapter or two. If it’s from NetGalley, I’ll skim it if I lose interest since I’m committed to a review.

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    • I agree there is a plethora of entertainment material to choose from, Teri. I feel like I have a very long attention span if I like something, but I’ve noticed I don’t give books or shows the same chance to make an impression as I would have in the past. It’s like I need to be enchanted immediately or I’m ready to move on. I’m trying to be more conscious of that. I know if I submit to an agent or publishing house, I would hope my work would be given a chance, but I’m imagining that agent or editor with piles of submissions to choose from. Ugh!

      It must be rough to have to finish a book you’re not interested in from NetGalley. At least you can skim through them. That’s definitely what I would do if I was committed to a review. From my personal TBR, I’m the same as you–a chapter or two and then I’m moving on!

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  23. I think for me it’s a “too many books, so little time” scenario. Although, if I stop reading a book I was genuinely interested in, I usually keep it on my to read list for later. That’s what happened with the fourth book of the Outlander series, and then I ended up zipping through the series until the latest published book.

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    • Hi, Kendra. I’ll own “too many books, so little time” as well, LOL!

      I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped reading a book I was genuinely interested in, but if I did, I’d be like you and finish it later too. I have, however, done that with a series of books. I did it with the Harry Dresden series after 4 books, and now I’m zipping through them (like you did with Outlander). I’m up to book 13 and have 3 more to go before I catch up with all of the published releases. The good thing about doing what we did is that you don’t have to wait a year between releases! 🙂

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  24. I think I made a post about this a few weeks back because I’ve noticed it too. People get bored easily or avoid things that seem to require a lot of time. Yet, they’ll binge a streaming show that’s popular. I think that’s also to get it over with and not have to wait for another episode. So there is a lot of impatience out there and that’s not good for books. Audiobooks might do better, but not every author can achieve that. Another effect seems to be little retention of information. I’ve met many who binge a show and can only remember the scenes that get mentioned all the time on social media. The rest of the show is a blank. In fact, this happens to me a lot too. Almost like it becomes background noise after a few episodes. Meanwhile, the ones I want at one episode a night with my son sticks in my head longer. Maybe it deals with human processing power.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very thought provoking comment, Charles. I wonder if there is a happy medium with bingeing a show vs. a one-episode viewing pace. I can’t do a long binge but I will watch 3-4 episodes of a half hour Netflix show in one night. If it’s an hour show, 2-3 is my limit. But I will go back the next day and watch a few more. That seems to be a good pace for me.

      When it comes to reading, as soon as I finish one book, I start another. Often in the same day. I have a need to constantly be reading. Strangely, I do not like audio books. I know they’re growing in popularity, but I would much rather read than listen. That may also be related to the type of learner I am—I do best with reading and writing, vs. visual or audio. That comes down to how I process information, just as you mentioned above.

      Great discussion! 🙂

      Like

      • Probably 2-4 at a time depending on length just like you said. That seems to be a happy medium. Probably depends on the person though.

        I tried audiobooks, but my life isn’t conducive to it. It’s barely allowing me to read regular books. Good point on the learner type. I’m more hands on and visual, so reading only gets me so far. At least now. I find that my concentration gets broken so often that I forget a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you! There are too many distractions, and broken concentration comes with that.
        I’m a little bit of a visual learner as well, as I need to write things down and see them in print to retain them better.
        Hope things calm down for you, Charles, and you get some “me” time! 🙂

        Like

  25. This is a great question, Mae. I don’t think our attention spans have gotten shorter, but our tolerance for mediocrity has gotten less. I have done the same things you mentioned with Netflix and books. If a TV show or movie doesn’t suck me in within ten minutes, I’m moving on. There are too many others to explore. The same with books. If I am not drawn into the story by the third chapter, I put it aside. There are millions to choose from. Life is short. Why spend precious time trying to slog through a book that doesn’t appeal? And just because it doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean it wouldn’t appeal to you. That’s my two-cents worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good two-cents worth, Jan. I feel the same way about books and shows. If the content is mediocre, I have no desire to dedicate time to it. There’s so much else I could be doing, including selecting a book, movie, or show that does appeal to me. I’ve had a couple books I read that weren’t wins for me, but were for friends. By the same token, I know there are books I’ve fallen in love with and others only found them so-so, or couldn’t get interested at all, so opinion does factor into it. And I do know, when I’m hooked on something, I’m in for the long haul, so I know my attention span is still working as it once did, LOL!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hmmm, great question. Not so many years ago, we owned TIME. We went to work, we went home, and otherwise, we determined how we used our minutes. Now, time is elusive. We cringe in horror when/if we watch the news, resort to YouTube for updates/ hope/ learning/ everything, and try to stay in touch with folks via social media. Our time is owned by the internet where glimpses and short replies are the gold standard. I’m not sure if our attention spans have diminished but because of what we do every day, we expect brevity and to-the-point information. Somehow, I think this dynamic affects our expectations of books. After all, another email has arrived, a podcast starts in X minutes, a friend just texted, etc. etc. If the internet goes down, we will again own time. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • How I would LOVE to own time, Gwen. You touched on so many aspects of what we rely on and juggle/deal with today. I’m reminded of when I first got a microwave way back in the day. I remember being enthralled that I could cook a baked potato in 10 minutes, when normally it would take an hour or hour an a half in the oven. I still recall how amazed I was by that. But then, over time, that 10 minutes in the microwave seemed far too long. I grew impatient waiting for the potato to get done.

      I do rely on the internet for so much, but when there is a power failure of several hours, it’s nice to be able to escape from the constant bombardment of stimuli.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You make excellent points, Gwen. I think you’ve hit on one of (if not THE) biggest problems. Too many of us are like news and entertainment junkies, looking for a quick fix these days. Maybe if time weren’t always in such short supply, we could relax, slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy a slow-burn kind of book again.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have a news app on my phone. Kind of pathetic, huh? But I bet many people do. I get short news-bites throughout the day to keep me informed.
        I do, however, still love a good slow-burn book. I can easily get lost in one. I love lyrical, flowery writing and the dense prose of old novels. I think they’re like the black-and-white movies of books, LOL.

        Fun discussion!

        Liked by 2 people

  27. Lots of food for thought here. I think our attention spans have definitely grown shorter. We live in an age where we want everything instantly. I know I don’t have the patience I once did. Since the onset of indie publishing, we have many more books to choose from, therefore we stand a bigger chance of coming across those DNF titles.

    Thirdly, since I began writing, I don’t have as much time to read. I have to choose books selectively. I recently purchased a New York Times bestseller that had an excellent blurb and sounded like the type of story I enjoy – lots of suspense and mystery. I gave up after the first page! (Lesson learned. Always download a preview when possible if you haven’t read that author before.) The fourteen-page (yes fourteen) author’s note before the first chapter should have clued me in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 14 page author’s note, Joan? Wow, that’s insane!

      Sometimes even the big gun authors don’t deliver. One of my auto-buy authors disappointed me last year and I gave up on his book after a few chapters. I might go back to that one, but am still undecided. I have LOVED everything he writes, but the plot didn’t work for me in this one.

      And yes, as writers, it’s even harder for us to find the time to devote to reading, another reason we have those huge TBRs. Like you, I also feel that I don’t have the patience I once did. And that’s in multiple areas of my life. I wonder if that will change when I retire and have more time on my hands.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I hate to say this, but is it possible that standards have slipped so badly, that it has finally become unable to be ignored?
    Or are we becoming more selective with our time? I’d like to think its the latter…

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I used to read everything that came my way. As a child, there weren’t many books around so I read them all to the end. I did give up when I tried to read my gran’s Bible from the beginning. (Have you ever tried reading Genesis straight through?)
    I never gave up on a book until just before I retired, when I was reading through a fantasy. I’d picked it up in a charity shop, but it had received good reviews. After a few chapters I realised I didn’t have to keep reading. I took it back to a charity shop with my next consignment.
    Since then, I feel no guilt at abandoning a book – at 70 my time is precious.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi, Cathy. You made a good point about how you read when you were younger. I remember ALWAYS sticking with a book as a child and teenager. If I picked one up, I felt almost obligated to read it. That changed as I got older, and especially now. I also get frustrated when I spend money on a book and then it doesn’t deliver. More than anything, however, I rue the thought of having wasted the time when I could have been reading something I enjoyed!

      Liked by 1 person

    • When in my teens, my friends and I decided we’d read the Bible from beginning to end. I don’t know haw far they got, but I made it to Leviticus.
      I hate not finishing a book, but recently I’ve DNFed a couple. One was so complicated, with characters with similar names, that I couldn’t keep up with it and had to keep looking back to see who was who. It was a fantasy book and all the names of the Royalty began with the same prefix. (I think the author was trying to write the next Game of Thrones, but he wasn’t good enough.)
      The second one I stopped reading last week. I was unsure where it was going. Not much was happening except a lot of talk between some of the characters. Magic seemed to come too easily and without any explanation as to how it worked.
      But as an ex-teacher, I would say that attention spans are getting shorter. Young people expect to be entertained, even in education–a thing acknowledged by trainers who talk about ‘engaging the pupils and keeping it interesting.’
      I told my grandchildren many times that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being bored. We all have to face it in our lives. (I hate being bored, too, but work on my stories in my head in those circumstances.) But young people seem to think it’s the worst thing that can happen. My husband told them, when they said,’ I’m bored,’ to go and find something to do themselves and not expect someone to find something for them. This is what we had to do.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi, V. M. I remember when my nieces and nephews were younger they wanted to be entertained, and didn’t know how to entertain themselves. I look back to when I was a kid and how my imagination always led me to find something to do. My nieces and nephews are now older with kids of their own and I fear their attention spans are even shorter. It must have been very hard to combat that as a teacher!

        Similar names in books always drives me nuts. As a writer, I will usually even avoid using character names that begin with the same letter or too many ending with a “y” or “ee” sound. I remember when I read Lord of the Rings back in high school. It took me the longest while to keep Saruman and Sauron straight. I can’t believe Tolkien did that!

        Sorry you had to DNF those books, but I can so relate. I always hate when I have to do that with a novel. But then I think about all the ones waiting for me to discover them and I gladly move on.

        I’ve read the Bible cover to cover before. I actually love the book of Genesis, and reading Old Testament fiction is a favorite genre of mine. I think if I had read one of the older King James Versions, I would have gotten lost among the “verily, veryily: 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree wholwheartedly with that. Remember school assemblies and sunday school and family dinners when we had to sit till we were told we could go. Boredom is good for the imagination. (It’s probably why I struggle for story ideas. I’ve no time to be bored.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! There was a plus side to boredom back in those days. And–OMG!–sitting at the table as a family and staying there until you finished your dinner, and were told you could be excused? Strange how I now think of that as a wonderful tradition but at the time I just wanted to get outside and play with my friends!

        Liked by 1 person

  30. I think as well as attention spans getting shorter, we’re influenced by choice. So much choice. As you said about Netflix. So true. In my experience, the internet, and things available at the click of a button, has made us a much more on-demand culture. We don’t want or expect to have to wait. I’m sure this is reflected in our reading. I give a bad book as long as I ever did unless it’s also full of typos from the get go, then it gets less of a chance. Of course, with the internet, I’m exposed to a lot more books.

    Great post and thought-provoking. Thanks, Mae 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sitting down and opening Netflix is kind of like a kid going into a candy store. There’s so many choices it’s mind-boggling!
      I’m glad you still give a book the same chances you always did, Harmony. I have to say, I have completely changed in that regard and won’t shy from DNFing a title that doesn’t engage me within a chapter or two. On the flip side of that, I have a long attention span if something interests me. I guess I hope, that despite the changes that have made us an on-demand culture, I can still retain the same attention I always did as long as I’m engaged.

      So glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say I don’t have the time to give things the chance I used to. As little as three years ago, if a show got past my trial period (then I always gave shows three episodes to find their groove), I would watch it until it was canceled. If I got to chapter two of a book, I’d finish it. I was like that since I was young. It was a little bit because of OCD (once I started something, I needed to finish it no matter what) and a little bit because of loyalty. Now, I try a lot fewer new things. If I start a new show, it’s because I trusted a recommendation from family or friends, or I respected earlier work by the director/producer/show runner/actor. Books I read are the same—I trust a friend’s review, or I know the author’s earlier work. Even with this vetting criteria, I will now abandon a book, show, or movie if it doesn’t grab me. I have too little free time to waste on low quality (or something in which I have no interest). Maybe it is because our choices have increased exponentially over the years, but I think it’s equally as likely that I’ve come to value my time more.

    Great tie-in at the end to the publishing world.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I really like your thought that you’ve come to value your time more. That’s it in a nutshell. When I was a kid and teen, I used to stick with a book until the end. It was like an obligation to finish, once I opened it. Definitely not now. And my approach to television has definitely changed. Although, one of those Netflix shows I ditched, I went back and gave another chance based on the recommendation of a family member. Now, I’m hooked. Sometimes my lack of patience with a book (or show) also comes down to my mood.

      Given how many books are waiting on my TBR (and how many shows waiting to be discovered on Netflix), I realized how an agent must feel when they get submission after submission piling up on their desk. At least they’re getting paid for that constant bombardment, LOL.

      So glad you enjoyed the post, Staci!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Agree with you. The attention span has definitely reduced. And we want to know every thing at once. We have a wider choice too and some it is of high quality and some isn’t and its natural for us to discard if its not upto liking. The main thing is surely the quality of content. Its just not now I personally have stopped watching shows in between or stopped reading a book. Like in Greys Anatomy the series is still on going but I don’t want to watch medical emergencies especially in COVID times. I want something lighter and its available so I switched. But you never know one fine day I will be back to watching Greys anatomy

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi, Kavita. Excellent point about quality. That’s all the more reason for writers to make sure their work is polished to perfection before releasing it for public consumption. I am quick to abandon an inferior product, but more likely to give something of quality a longer time to hook me.

      You also made a great point about current events. I bet there were multiple people who abandoned medical shows during COVID. What happens around us can definitely impact our viewing and reading habits.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing!

      Like

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