Here’s a thing I’m going to do—I’m going to use fewer words. Starting now. For a guy with a propensity for verbosity, it’s going to be difficult. You see, I’ve always liked the way words tumble out like a waterfall or a big spew. I like the throw-away tumble-drip cadence of it all. It makes me feel clever. But here’s the thing. I’ve been so busy enjoying the sound I make as I fill the world with noise, that I’ve forgotten to pause for breath.
I think we all might have.
A few weeks back my Dad came to town to count his grandson. It was with gleeful willingness that I handed over the reins to the bedtime reading routine. “Here, take him,” I said, thrusting my boy forward and retiring backward to the sofa in one motion, phone already in hand—I was a hunched totem to the disengaged behaviour I dislike so immensely but participate in so willingly. As I scrolled ever onward through a swamp of digital trash content not nearly as interesting as the sight of my father reading to my first born son, something struck me. Time outside of my little phone bubble had slowed.
I usually read four books to the boy before bed. It’s an exercise in quantity over quality. Four books is what the audience wants—that’s the lie I tell myself, so I rattle through them at a frenzied clip, seamlessly fusing the end of one book to the start of the next. Woe betide the boy if he wants to revisit a page or stop to point out a caterpillar in a tree. Time stops for no two-year-old. We’ve got a content calendar to get through and a deadline to meet.
That night, my Dad read just one book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It took him half an hour—longer than it usually takes me to rattle through four stories.
What was my father’s excuse for this extravagant over-expenditure of minutes? He was simply taking the time to tell the story well. He was treating every word with value. He was getting the voices perfect. He was pausing between sentences to let the trip, trap, trip, trap of the billy goats reverberate around the living room. He was giving each page a weight and each page turn gravity. He was leaving gaps for emotion to flow into. He was making the troll more frightening. He was making the billy goats more scared.
Dad closed the back cover. I paused mid-scroll with a smirk, waiting for the invariable request for another book that would set off two solid hours of story reading. It never came. That night, one was enough.
And you know what’s interesting? The Three Billy Goats Gruff is now the boy’s favorite book. He sits in his booster seat and recounts it to himself in the car. A few days ago I caught him memory-reading it to a stuffed giraffe. It’s clearly resonated in a way that no story has since.
My Dad hasn’t kept up with technology. He doesn’t have a mobile phone. He doesn’t use a computer. He operates at a slower pace. I think there’s a lot to be said for that. These days, it feels like we’re all struggling and stretching to fill content calendars. Five phases. Forty-seven formats. Twelve edits to appeal to twelve unique audience segments. It’s a lot of words. A lot of pictures. A lot of time spent being busy. Before we rush headlong into it, I reckon it’s important to pause and ask ourselves, do we need all this? Could we say more with less? Could we slow down and concentrate on telling the story better? Could we invest less in iteration and a little more in emotion?
And could we all get to bed a little earlier?
Design, Marketing & Technology news, Monthly (ish)
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