What every economist, and for that matter every writer on any subject, needs to realize is that unless you are a powerful person and people are looking for clues about what you’ll do next, nobody has to read what you write — and lecturing them about what they’re missing doesn’t help. You have to provide the hook, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, that pulls them in. It’s part of the job.

Paul Krugman

Krugman is writing in response to Roger Farmer, an economist who accused Krugman of plagiarism. Krugman’s takedown defense—he hasn’t read Farmer because his work is impenetrable and he fails as a writer—works as an indictment of Farmer, but I don’t think that it works as a defense of academics or journalists not engaging certain thinkers and books (which isn’t Krugman’s argument, but it’s one that can easily emerge from this line of thought.) The responsibilities of professional writers and readers are different. Much of academic writing is filled with jargon, and unfortunately academics are required to root through it, regardless of how poorly written or uninteresting it is. It’s part of the job.  

[h/t Paul]

As regards my own attention span and concentrational abilities? I’m as much pond life by now as anyone else is, but I do try, I make an effort – on a dreary pragmatic level, this involves me not going online in the mornings. If I reach to the bedside table first thing and start checking email, that’s pretty much it, I’m in flitty online mode for the day, and I won’t get any work done. So I don’t go online now until the afternoon, and this means that I still get some work done. I don’t want it to be all doom-and-gloom here – I do believe that humans still need and will continue to need stories, and we just have to get through the sea of distractions (somehow) and deliver them.
I cannot now recall exactly what creatures I saw on that visit to the Antwerp Nocturama, but there were probably bats and jerboas from Egypt and the Gobi Desert, native European hedgehogs and owls, Australian opossums, pine martens, dormice, and lemurs, leaping from branch to branch, darting back and forth over the grayish-yellow sandy ground, or disappearing into a bamboo thicket. The only animal which has remained lingering in my memory is the raccoon. I watched it for a long time as it say beside a little stream with a serious expression on its face, washing the same piece of apple over and over again, as if it hoped that all this washing, which went far beyond any reasonable thoroughness, would help it to escape the unreal world in which it had arrived, so to speak, through no fault of its own. Otherwise, all I remember of the Nocturama is that several of them had strikingly large eyes, and the fixed, inquiring gaze found in certain painters and philosophers who seek to penetrate the darkness which surrounds us purely by means of looking and thinking.
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz. 
There’s two weeks of stuff you can teach someone who hasn’t written fifty things yet and is still kind of learning. Then it becomes more a matter of managing various people’s subjective impressions about how to tell the truth vs. obliterating someone’s ego.
DFW on teaching fiction
Of course my book won’t help you if you don’t use it. Improving your style isn’t an overnight affair; reading my book through once and then putting it on your desk or shelf will do little for you. What I hope you’ll do is refer to it again and again while you’re writing.
William Flesch tries to convince readers of his importance in the preface to his [out of print] book, The ABC of Style.

Ted Genoways, the editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, has an essay up at Mother Jones with the alarmist title “The Death of Fiction?”: he points out, to the surprise of nobody, I expect, that the magazine component of the fiction industry is in bad shape right now. He examines the systemic failure that brought us here: part of the problem is the over-supply of reading. The way that we find interesting writing has changed, and we can more easily find interesting content without reading literary journals than was possible twenty years ago. Another is the over-supply of writers: over the past two decades universities have rightly seen adding MFA programs as cash cows, as most students pay full price. When creative writing programs produce, as he suggests, 60,000 new writers a decade, this has the added benefit for the universities of creating a steady stream of writing instructors willing to serve as adjuncts; a huge supply of competition means that they don’t need to be paid very much. There’s a labor problem here: the universities have given their students the misleading idea that writing fiction can be a sustainable career when they have a better chance of supporting themselves by buying scratch tickets. It’s an unfortunate situation; when this is combined with the decline of paying outlets for fiction, it’s easy to project, as he suggests, the death of writing fiction as a paid pursuit.

It’s worth reading this in conjunction with a post on the Virginia Quarterly Review’s blog, which states the problem more baldly, pointing out an imbalance between readers and writers:

Here at VQR we currently have more than ten times as many submitters each year as we have subscribers. And there’s very, very little overlap. We know—we’ve checked. So there’s an ever-growing number of people writing and submitting fiction, but there’s an ever-dwindling number of people reading the best journals that publish it.