by Paula Gail Benson
If you look up the definition of “economics” in Wikipedia, you find it’s a social science that considers how goods and services are produced, distributed, and consumed. The word “economics” comes from two ancient Greek words for “house” and “custom or practice,” leading to the modern idea that economics describes the “rules of the house” for good management.
A colleague of mine who works with the state budget explained to me that economics is more about probabilities than possibilities. He’s in the business of calculating public funding. When you do that, you need a well-reasoned basis for decision making.
I truly admire our fellow blogger Jim Jackson’s posts and discussions about the economics of writing. He attended the Palmetto Chapter of SinC and explained the circumstances under which it would be most beneficial to be published through the Kindle Scout program. (He’s also written about that subject here at Writers Who Kill.) His analysis was fascinating and so eye-opening. I followed his reasoning, seeing how it all fit together and knowing that his ability to do these calculations is a great talent, but not one I possess.
Here’s my theory about writing economics: You have to balance the opportunities you give yourself with the potential return they may yield for your writing.
For instance, the other day, I indulged in a delicious meal, spending $17 at a restaurant known as a ladies’ lunch spot. I was mentally taking myself to task for not selecting a more reasonable alternative when I noticed a group of gentlemen in polo shirts sitting at a nearby table. Their presence in the restaurant was intriguing enough, but in addition one of the men had extensive bandaging over his nose, appearing as if he had recently undergone surgery. Due to the bandaging, he was talking loudly. When his companions asked him about his dating life, he launched into a tale about a recent and on-going experience with an online relationship that was hilarious. Sitting with my notebook open, I took it down word-for-word, not knowing how I might use it, but certain it was gold.
So, did I waste my resources by buying the expensive lunch or did I offer myself an opportunity to gain insight for writing?
Hank Phillippi Ryan tells a wonderful story about how she met her husband and why they celebrate “You Never Know” day. They had been invited separately to share a house with a group of friends in Nantucket and met upon their arrival. Since that time, they have never been apart. And, due to the unexpected nature by which they came together, they celebrate the anniversary of the day before they met as “You Never Know” day, because, as Hank puts it, “you never know what wonderful thing is around the corner.” (To read her lovely account of the story, here’s a link to her message, “How Do You Tell the Real Thing?")
While I respect that moderation is a good guide, particularly when expenses are involved, I like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s approach for leading a happy, hopeful, and creative life. On too many occasions, I’ve been grateful for having taken a chance to do something. I’m not sure I can begin to count the number of story ideas I can attribute to an unexpected experience I’ve encountered. It’s made me appreciate all the more my pocketbook sized notebook and my reasonable willingness to embark on a little adventure or two.
I’ll never forget the road trip I made with our beloved Sam Morton to Murder in the Magic City. Not only do I remember Sam’s delight in participating in that conference and meeting Hank, but also my own appreciation that we were able to stop on the way to visit my aunt. It turned out to be the last time I was able to see her during her life.
Sam and his great mentor Pat Conroy were wonderful examples of writers not afraid to take some risks in life and then have the courage to write about their experiences. Through their words, we readers have had the wonderful chance to gain new understandings and live our own lives more fully. In my view, that’s an excellent return from a well-spent opportunity.
What are your thoughts about writing economics?