Stop Crying Wolf

by Starla J. King on June 5, 2015

You’ve likely heard Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” which goes something like this:

A little boy is tending sheep, and gets bored, so he shouts at the top of his lungs, “WOLF! WOLF!!” Much to his delight, the concerned villagers race up the mountain to help protect him and the sheep from the wolf.  But of course there is no wolf, just the little boy’s practical joke and instantly angry villagers.

Well, the boy thinks this is great fun, so he soon cries “WOLF! WOLF!!” again, and the scenario repeats: the villagers arrive, find no wolf, stomp back down the hill, and the little boy laughs and laughs at his cleverness.

Then a real wolf arrives.  Having been fooled twice, the villagers ignore the boy’s desperate cries of “WOLF! WOLF!!!!” and, depending on which version of the fable you read, the sheep all run away or the wolf attacks and scatters lifeless sheep bodies all around the mountain.

As I flit around the internet, I feel as though I’m being bombarded by a gazillion voices “crying wolf.”  Apparently, if I don’t watch that video, I’ll miss out on the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  If I don’t buy that product immediately, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I’ll sob by the end of that video, die with disbelief when I see what happens in that video, and my mind will be blow — BLOWN!!! — when I see the photo of that dude’s latest stunt.

I know, I know, it’s a marketing ploy tactic to get us to pay attention (and I hate to admit how many times I’ve been sucked into clicking a link I really didn’t care about), but I hope we — as creatives, writers, truth-tellers — can choose a different way.

Give us meaning, rather than exaggerated shock and awe.

Draw us in by your story, not “click bait” phrases shouting out false emotion.

Quietly offer us your different viewpoints and experiences, instead of just trying to yell louder than the others who are all saying that same thing.

Be, as Seth Godin says, “the unexpected.” How?  “Cross out every sentence that could have been written by someone else, every box check, every predictable reference. Now, insert yourself. Your truth and your version of what happens next.”

In other words, please stop crying wolf.  Your truth is enough.

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