Monkey mind and the zen web editor

I’m not a Buddhist, but I try to engage Buddhist principles in my life for the same reason a lot of diets work: It shakes up my viewpoint enough that I have to work hard to decide which choices to make. Then I can see which junk is taking up shelf space.

This post over at the source of all wisdom, The Huffington Post, defines monkey mind for us:

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.

The Internet, and particular social media, is basically built on monkey mind. Yes, there are luminous pieces and epic moments to be found out here on the web, but if you are in the business of regular, daily content, I would argue that part of your success is almost bound to be wrapped up in how well you appeal to monkey mind.

If your readers were having a calm, centred moment, they probably would not be hovering their finger or cursor over your link.

Every brand, site and web editor has to come to terms with this contradiction. How to deliver quality that also appeals to the monkey mind. Sometimes it’s about an “engaging” (read: distracting) headline. Sometimes it’s a graphic. Sometimes it’s timing. Usually it’s all three and then some.

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Moby Dick in Manhattan

Back just before my husband and I bought our first house, I was ramping up for a career writing fiction. But then I read a story in the New Yorker about this really talented writer who was living in poverty despite critical praise for his books, because they weren’t really selling. In my mid-20s, the whole thing read like a fate worse than a full-time job, so I got one, and became fascinated by the web, and ended up throwing a lot of my energy into building sites. No regrets really, except that there was one famous Canadian writer who offered to blurb my book if I ever finished and sold it, and he died. Sigh.

Weirdly, though, this weekend I was on one of my favourite question-and-answer sites and someone else remembered that article and asked about it. I remembered enough detail to plug a bit more into Google and so I found “Moby Dick in Manhattan” online. Reading it now, although it still isn’t exactly a tale of glory, it really doesn’t sound so bad after all. It does sound quaint, though, a world without blogs, Twitter, or Kindle self-publishing.