Don’t Waste Being Provocative Without Actually Provoking Action


“I don't intentionally go: ‘Ooh, what is provocative,' and try to do that. I just do stuff, and people go: ‘Ooh, that's provocative.'” – M.I.A., Born Jul. 18, 1975.

Good writing provokes.

It isn't comfortable and breezy.

It causes discomfort and dissatisfaction. It gives hope and makes promises. It stirs ACTION.

But lots of writers do it wrong, in that they aim to be PROVOCATIVE rather than just PROVOKING.

Not to get all semantic about it, but what I mean is that if you want to be merely “provocative” then you can sit around and brainstorm things you can do to be deliberately provocative and offensive or shocking or whatever…

But being provocative usually ends at triggering peoples’ feelings. Just an emotional response. Pearl clutching only. And for many who work strictly in “content” – that’s enough. To get the click or the angry comment…

But maybe you would rather actually drive ACTION, and thereby be seen as provocative, challenging, arresting FOR REAL…

To do that, you need to PROVOKE with your words.

Words are weapons and we aren't just here to brandish and rattle them threateningly. We want to slap and jab and poke people.

We want to make the past an insult. Make the present unbearable. And make the future into a nightmare from which the only escape is ACTION. Action that YOU prescribe.

That's what we do. We push. We pull. We move.

So don’t just agitate – give it somewhere to go. Give people something to do. Always connect it to an action they can do right now.

Then line it up. Step by step. “You see this? Makes you feel ___ right? Here’s what to do about it: ___!”

If you want to make people behave in the ways you want them to, you have to push their buttons. That's how machines work, duh.

Agree, meatbags? Reply if you do, OR if you don’t!

4 thoughts on “Don’t Waste Being Provocative Without Actually Provoking Action”

  1. Useful, thanks.

    I tend to focus on the fear driven agitation and painting the desired outcome, and forget about the others. So it is useful to have some other ways to drive action.

    1. Fear of the unknown is a common hesitation against buying, conscious or otherwise. So I like to think of use of fear in the sense that we are shifting what is unknown. There are more scary uncertainties in NOT buying a solution than there are in trying this one. But even then, it should come last in a series of persuasive attempts. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Some nice needle points there Colin. Thanks for putting this one out on the webs!

    Can't wait for the full list 🙂

  3. Reading and listening to this line of thinking and then seeing you talk about it minutes later, really solidifies this belief for me.

    Keep'em coming Reverand.

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