Dare to Start Slow

In the last 40 years, the average song intro has shortened by 80%. What used to be a 50-second guitar solo before the first lyric has become an instant, repetitive backdrop of “hey!”s, “ooohhh”s, and “oh yeah!”s — because if you don’t grab the listener in the first ten seconds, chances are, they’ll be gone by the eleventh.

Spotify gives you access to over 100 million seconds. Even if you tap “Next” every second, it’ll take you over three years to get through it. Who wants to wait ten, 20, 50 times as long to find out if a song is any good? Actually, a lot of people — if we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The first Dune movie is basically two and a half hours of setup for the second. Yet it still made $400 million at the box office. Nothing substantial happens in the first 12 episodes of Steins;Gate, the first few chapters of Snow Crash, or the first half of any Quentin Tarantino movie, and yet we still watch, read, and enjoy those works of entertainment. Why? Because we like spending time with people, and we appreciate good art.

It’s okay if that art mirrors real life from time to time. If it’s not climax after climax, an instantaneous series of ever-escalating dopamine hits. Just chill, you know? Come hang out with these characters. Get to know them. Listen to Mike’s guitar solo or Robbert’s epic beat. Watch normal people have normal problems like you. That way, once the stakes and action do explode, they’ll actually have meaning.

In a world where front-loaded hooks and immediate attention-grabbing have become the norm, it’s scary to take your time. To go the long way around and risk losing folks. But it’s also liberating to buck the trend. To acknowledge that the new normal is perhaps a little bit crazy, and to insist on your right to take as long as it takes. And while you’ll lose some folks indeed, at the end of the day, the sky won’t fall — because so far it never has.

Dare to start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and great things never will be. Have faith in yourself, but perhaps more importantly, have faith in us. As long as the story is worth telling, you can choose any pace, and we’ll still follow along.