On a farm in Missouri, a young man walked three miles each day to go to college. He was a smart boy, had good grades, and aspirations to become a great novelist. There was only one problem — he wasn’t any good.
Nevertheless, the boy would end up writing one of the most influential books ever written. It wasn’t the next big American novel. Instead, he wrote a book about people. More specifically How to Win Friends and Influence People. It sold over 30 million copies.
2016 election night. Donald Trump faces Hillary Clinton in the fight for the presidency.
The election was quite frankly a shitshow. Trump’s candidacy took everyone by surprise. People thought it was a joke. Maybe a cheap shot to gain some publicity for the Trump brand. They’d be in for a surprise.
Dammit! You did it again. You clicked. You bit the bait.
But don’t worry, I promise this will actually be useful (unlike the majority of articles you click on).
If you’re like me, you noticed the sheer flood of clickbait on the internet at large and Medium in particular. With every second headline, you get the feeling that you’ve seen it before:
“I [did some activity] for [number of days]. Here’s what happened.”
“How I [achieved something desirable] in [surprisingly short time frame].”
“[Some number] things you are doing that make you [negative outcome or emotion].”
And yes, the title of this essay belongs in this category too. The thing is, you write at a severe disadvantage if you don’t play the game of clicks. Similar to a TV flashing in the background, clickbait is impossible to ignore and it takes an almost inhuman amount of self-control not to engage. With ten lit up flashing TV screens, who is paying attention to the bad lit poster?
This six-word story, often attributed to Hemingway, is an emotional tragedy. With just six words a writer can communicate a whole story.
What do you think of when you hear the term story?
Probably books and movies come to mind. Long narratives of heroes and foes acting in their worlds. But story is more prevalent than that. Because our brains are wired to think in stories. We virtually see them everywhere.
A story doesn’t have to belong either. The one above unfolds its power with just six words. It changes your emotional state after two seconds and makes you sad. That’s how powerful story is.
We’re all storytellers. We all know the language of story. But in case you’ve gotten rusty, let me fresh up your memory.