What Do You Mean, "Read this"?

Sale Kenjio Book Sculpture,
"Atlas" - paper sculpture by Kenjio

In my day job, I frequently give people documents with clearly written instructions for how to proceed. Please fill out your name and address. Payment must be made by cheque or money order in the amount of $500.00 to Monkey My Monkey Corp.

There’s a 50/50 chance the instructions will be read and followed. If I highlight the keywords, my odds improve to 60/40.

The rest of the people give back their documents, complete with contact information and signatures, while asking me, “Okay, how much do I owe you and who do I make the cheque out to?”

Even when there’s a compelling reason, and clear directions to “READ THIS NOW”, many of us go to great lengths to avoid actually reading things. The instruction “Door Out of Service. Please Use Other Door,” is often ignored, or assumed to say “Grab the handle, push, pull, shake, then ask someone nearby “what’s going on?”

As I think about how few people bother reading anything, I laugh at my own tendency to view it as a symptom of our times. “Damned Millennials.” I want to say. My parents used to say “Kids these days!” Perhaps their parents exclaimed, “This Forsaken Generation!”

But it’s not a generational thing.  It’s always been like this for one reason or another.

In the olden days, many weren’t literate enough to read things and comprehend what they were reading, and now we are too busy and distracted to give mundane things more than a glance or a passing thought.

Reading takes time – and time is right up there beside money and love as one of those things that there is just too little of. It’s too demanding to expect people to read anything.

And yet all of us who fancy ourselves writers (and/or publishers) have the hubris to think we can produce 80,000, 160,000, or half-million word epics – and people will fall upon our words with glad cries.

I’d say we were nuts, if so many writers who came before us hadn’t managed the accomplishment. We all hope that the work we’re producing is exactly what fiction readers and filmmakers are looking for. Our publishers want it as much as we do. And one in a million times, we’ll be right, and audiences will latch onto our work with great love and enthusiasm.

Yes, I know that reading the manual so that we can correctly operate the tv remote control, is a stretch for most of us.

But here, read this…I’ll bet you won’t be able to put it down.

About the commenters:

Michael Skeet's Blog Quipu contains everything from hilarious reviews of  novelty breakfast cereals to his terrific alternate history novel, Dixie's Land, in its entirety.


  1. Y'know, I never before made the connection between my technical writing and my fiction. In the former case I just assumed nobody would read it. In the latter, I've always assumed people would read. The difference, probably, is one of compulsion. People pick up fiction because they want to; the other writing is stuff they think they're supposed to read. And so they don't.


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