It’s almost 2 A.M. The pale blue glow of your laptop’s screen is the only light in the room. Your eyes are closing, but you won’t let them. You need 271 more words. Briefly, you consider leaving that for tomorrow. But that would bring your word goal up to 1,271. Besides, you borrowed two hours from tomorrow already. Sigh. Things aren’t looking great.
Writing is hard. Writing is also time-consuming—if you want to finish anything that is. In this post, I would like to bring more attention to an area that I feel isn’t talked about enough—the opportunity cost of writing books.
When starting a new project or even a career as a writer, we tend to set our eyes at the ultimate destination. We think about the finished book, the stellar reviews and sold-out book signings. We tend to think less about what it will cost to get there. And yes, there’s always a price.
Let’s say that a novel might take you about 1,000 hours of work to complete—roughly 2 hours every day for two years. What else could you accomplish in that time? What are you potentially giving up to write that book?
Could you become pretty good at painting or producing music? Maybe you could find a better job or switch careers. Maybe you could exercise more or spend more time with your friends and family. You could start a business, trade bitcoin, watch more TV or just read more books. You could do anything. Why write?
I’m not trying to persuade you to give up—not at all. But asking this question once in a while helps to put things in perspective. I’m a massive fan of digital painting and photography. I also like playing music. And even though I dabble at those from time to time, I’m fully aware that I will never get very far in those pursuits given my current set of priorities.
In the end, life is a trade-off. You won’t be able to do everything. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t know the alternative. Thinking about the opportunity costs is an excellent way of making sure that you keep heading in the right direction.
Writing is hard. It takes a lot of time. But is it worth it? You’re the only one that can answer that.
What I Am Reading?
I’m about half-way through Nir Eyal’s Hooked. It does have some overlap with other books on habits that I’ve read in the past (Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGoniall), but I don’t mind that. It’s good to return to those things once in a while. This one focuses on habits through the lens of developing products which I find fascinating, given we’re living our lives surrounded by addictive products that are fighting ruthless battles for a sliver of our attention (and cash).
Nir published Indistractable recently which provides perhaps an antidote against the techniques described in Hooked. I received it in the post today and am looking forward to reading it!
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