Why do we write atomic essays?

The atomic essay format has found tremendous popularity due to the Ship30for30 course. You can’t go onto Twitter these days without seeing someone’s latest atomic essay.

It appears a key motivator for many participants is “building an audience”.

Audience building is not by definition a bad thing, but it can be a slippery slope. In a world where attention has become commoditized, it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming an attention land-grabber. If “audience growth” is the primary goal, the motivation behind the essay writing tends to become extrinsic, akin to posting on Instagram or Facebook to get likes.

A better approach is to write for yourself.

You are more likely to maintain an internal locus of control if you can detach yourself from the gamified responses and remove the constant striving and “social pressure”. You will write more about the topics you care about, making the process more enjoyable, and hopefully making your writing more authentic. The atomic essay format then becomes a forcing mechanism, because having an output, even self-imposed, tends to be a great motivator.

Who knows, maybe you’ll still grow an audience – but instead of it being those just sucked in by your clickbaity titles, it will be the folks who care about the same things that you do.

And even if you don’t grow, at least you’ll find more resonance with yourself. Surely that’s a good thing?