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Interest is in the senses of the brain holder.
We want to spend our time on interesting content. Whether it is something we are consuming (what others create) or something you are producing (what you create). I will refer to the object of the interest as "content" for simplicity. Interesting content is not boring, it elicits passion, and feels fulfilling. There is a sense of satisfaction when giving attention to content that is interesting, whether you're making or experiencing the content. The mind naturally pays attention to what is most interesting. I'm going to provide you with eight ways to create interesting content by thinking different. Thinking in interesting ways leads to creating interesting content for an interesting life and being an interesting person.
What is interest?
Interest is created by content that concerns, involves, draws the attention of, or arouses the curiosity of a person. Interest is when your attention is where you want it. It is an emotion and a thought that is experienced. You have your own personal interests that draw your attention. Past experiences can determine what is interesting. Over time a person's interests may change with new ones coming in and old leaving. This happens for a multitude of different reasons but at the end of the day interests change with environment and what is important at the time.
Environment (culture, socialization, opportunities, etc.) plays a big factor on what you will find interesting. For example, if you didn't grow up playing chess or were not a part of a culture where it existed then you likely won't be interested in it in the future. Or at least the probability of the interest is much lower. And if chess never enters your environment then you'll never have a chance in being interested.
A person's attention needs to be engaged in order to gain interest. Attention comes first. Asking the question "what is interesting" is asking how to gain attention. In my last post I discussed how attention plays a fundamental role in focus. Attention plays an equally important role on creating interest. Attention is the action that leads to the interested feeling. We tend to focus on what we're interested in after we've given our attention.
There are jobs specifically for gaining attention from the public. As they say, it's better to be talked about than not talked about. Attention hacking is the name of the game. The ugly side of this is clickbait and everything that comes with that. People seek to rob your attention with interesting titles and thumbnails. Then once you follow that interest the content is boring. This isn't a long game because you will drive future interest away by a lack of trust.
Great content is interesting. The question to ask is "how do you create content to get and keep attention?". By doing so you'll create interesting content. The more "brain stimulating" the content the more likely you're going to keep attention. The brain lights up when we're interested in something. Pupils dilate. There is a physical reaction that occurs. Let's jump into where interest comes from and how to create that interest.
Where does interest come from and how do I to create it?
Below are several different examples of where interest may come from. There are more ways interest is created but these are the main ones that I am focusing in on at the moment.
1. Senses - Content that appeals to one or more of the 5 senses of the human body will be interesting. We experience the world through our senses and this is where interest begins. All of the other sections below stem from our brain's processing of sensory data and our interpretation of that data. This is a fundamental principle of creating interesting content.
We all have preferences in taste, sights, smells, touches, and sounds that we are more interested in. These are called our preferences. I personally have a preference to the taste of lychee. When I see lychees you can bet I'm interested. Our senses are also used in determining what is not interesting. While creating consider what senses you are appealing to and shape the content accordingly.
2. Novelty - New, different, and unusual content will spark interest. Novelty sparks curiosity by making you want to find out more. We search for novelty all the time on the internet. The rotation of content with old to new happens on a second by second basis. This is because the creators of these content sharing platforms know that your brain wants to have new sensory experiences. Show existing ideas in a new way by combining or synthesizing different ideas together. Think laterally away from the content to create something new.
This takes some practice and can feel uncomfortable if you don't combine different concepts often. A recent example of synthesizing two different ideas is the Dispo app that is becoming popular. The photos taken on cell phones have an instant digital result. Disposal cameras were fun growing up but had a delayed result. The outcome is the same in both, a photo. Dispo is the combination of the idea of a disposal camera and a cell phone camera. When you take a photo with Dispo on your phone you will only see the result the next day after it's "developed". The novelty of this is that the experience of taking photos is now different and new again. Sure, it's rather inconvenient when you think about it, but it's a novelty.
3. Passion - Evoking a feeling of passion that comes from previous experiences can create interest. Passion is something that is built up over time and can be emotion driven. Passion creates relevance in our mind. We've decided that this content is important to us based on previous experiences. Our understanding of something also drives interest. If we do not understand something and grasping the content feels too difficult then we will not find it interesting.
If someone is passionate about the same content as you then they will be interested. The content will be relevant to them. On the contrary, if something doesn't find particle physics, for example, particularly interesting to begin with then it will be boring for them. That does not mean that your content is boring, it just needs to be in front of the relevant audience.
4. Needs - Whether we like it or not, we're a slave to our human body's needs. There is no escaping it while living. It's a fact of life. So, if something appeals to the body's needs such as food, water, sex, or social connection (there are more), then that will be a driving factor for what is interesting for you. All of the neurotransmitters and hormones in the body affect what is interesting. Once you feel that hunger hormone, ghrelin, everything starts to look like food.
Our body's needs and hormonal signals have a strong pull. They're a programmed default. In fact, the drive of the needs is so strong that if you don't satisfy certain ones you will die. Some are not as mortal but they do affect emotional states. Marketers know this. The desire to fit in and have social connections is a big one. This is exploited with brand content. If you're hungry you'll know that all of a sudden anything food related will be at peak interest.
5. Tension - Tension produces interest through stress, curiosity, and desire. It is created between the content being consumed and the consumer. Content that has unanswered questions, like a mystery novel, creates this state of interest. Then once tension is created we search for a way to relieve it. When the tension is gone our interest will start to disappear.
Tension is fascinating. It is the release from tension we crave. Comedians are great tension builders. The punchline is the release. The bigger the rise the bigger the release. Tension is made in music too. In electronic music tension is built up until the "drop".
If tension is created through the content, such as a movie, then the search for relief is at the mercy of the content creator. We hope that they've written in a resolution to the story and perhaps a grand reveal. If not, like in cliff-hangers, we're left disappointed. This can be why scary movies or mysteries can be so interesting because we're looking to have our questions answered... and the writers always wait till the end. Give your audience the relief otherwise they won't be happy.
6. Value - We are interested in what we value. Value can be found in opportunity and also scarcity. Positive future outcomes presented to us in the form of opportunities will create interest. We want good things to happen in the future and value the chance for that to happen. Scarcity creates interest because of our competitive nature for things we value. It's supply and demand at work. If a person, resource, skill, or anything is scarce then we will be drawn to it. Less of something will make it more interesting.
In modern content creation this can manifest in the form of give aways or prizes. If I learn this then it will create more opportunity later for example. There's a finite number of anything. You are the only you. This one is easy to create with certain things with either time or quantity. Examples you've likely seen are "for a limited time" or "only the first 100 people". In commerce these kinds of scarcity constraints can create a stronger interest in buying.
7. Joy - Content that is fun is interesting and can create a feeling of joy. We like content, whether consuming or producing, that brings us satisfaction. Finding joy in content is like finding the path of least resistance. It's much easier to follow.
“You can’t get people to do something they don’t want to do.” — B.J. Fogg, director of Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab
Joy can be created in many different ways. Making the consumer of the content laugh through using humour creates joy. Sharing uplifting content will also create joy. Keeping your content positive is my favourite way of creating joy. If you're having fun then chances are your audience will have fun.
8. Combinations - Using several of these methods together will go further to foster interest than using them individually. All interest starts from the senses and, at minimum, a combination will require appealing to the senses. Some examples of combinations include a novel taste in a blindfolded eating test, a new song which creates tension in the music, or scarcity of a need like food are combinations that will create interest.
BONUS! Unpredictability - Didn't see this one coming did you? Content that isn't predictable creates intrigue in our minds. The brain likes to figure out what is going to happen next and will work hard to figure out what that might be. If it's unable to figure out the pattern of what is going to happen next then we become interest. Unexpected content that is surprising will keep make for interesting content. The way to create unpredictable content is by doing something different than a usual or expected pattern. This can be done through with twists to the plot or misdirection.
I hope that you can create and consume more interesting content with some of the ideas I've discussed. We like producing and consuming so why not work to make it a bit more interesting. But remember that interest is personal, so be authentic to your interests and self. Not everyone will find your content interesting just like you don't find everything interesting. And that's a good thing. If you found everything interesting your mind would be completely overwhelmed.
I'm working hard so that you'll find my content more interesting and I've got a long way to go. It's one thing to write about it and another to implement the ideas I've mentioned. I think that creating interesting content is an iterative process that will take time. I look forward to implementing more of these ideas to make more interesting content in the future. Thanks for reading.
I appreciate you.
P.s. I said the word interest 32 times and interesting 34 times in this writing piece. Yikes.