I’ve always remembered a conversation I had with a friend in high school about a topic one of his classes had just covered—opportunity economics. The boiled-down gist of it is simple enough. The time you have is finite. When you choose to spend it doing one thing, it comes at the cost of your opportunity to do something else.
Really think about that, though. It’s a deep concept to the mortal animal, perhaps even deeper to the human animal, who has (in so many cases) moved past mere survival-oriented thoughts to ideas of love, respect, and self-actualization.
It’s an even stranger concept for an artist—writer, musician, poet, painter. Time we spend with our art is time we are not with friends and family, time we are not enjoying other artists’ work, time we are not out in the sunshine or the snow feeling the joy of pure physicality.
Why do we do it? I think the answer that resonates most with me is the one that says we cannot choose otherwise. We need it. Even when we don’t do it, we need it. Those who don’t need it…my experience is they don’t stick with it over the long term.
For me, in more concrete terms, this means I sacrifice to work fulltime and still get in 50,000+ words of new writing in every month. The day job is, of course, my least malleable commitment. I choose to make the writing the least variable priority after that. Yes, that means sometimes turning down opportunities to go out with friends, opportunities to watch movies or play video games.
Someone might say, as I said when I first started my side project under this pen name, that this is purely temporary. When I am able to write fulltime (and January 2012 was the second month in a row I brought home at least what I make at my management job), I will have more free time to spend with other people and enjoying myself.
Now, I’m not convinced that will be the case. Sure, I will have more time, but I will invest at least part of that extra time back into my writing. More projects. More kinds of projects. More involved projects. More writing.
Oddly, this does not distress me as it might distress others. I’m in my zone, writing nearly every day, turning out those 50,000 words a month relatively easily now. I’m swimming in deep water, reluctant to come up for air.
I confess (at this late stage) that I don’t really have a moral to this story. I’m just thinking out loud (in type). Here’s a snippet of what I’m thinking, right now, as I write write write, squeezing in editing and cover designs for five other writers (yep, lost one who couldn’t maintain the pace), getting my ducks in a row to launch the small press next month. This is a snapshot to tape up on the wall and look at later, for what it might be worth.
All that said, I have music again. I don’t have a tie-in today for the post and the video I’ve chosen. This is just a song I’ve been thinking about lately. I love that it is almost like two or three songs in one. It’s a romantic love song. It’s an abusive love song. And it’s a song about something else. How quickly can you pick it out? I love the way the meaning shifts, the way his voice shifts.
For those of you who hate hip-hop, give the song a chance. I’m not asking you to like 50 Cent or buy his album or stop listening to country music. Just listen to this song. Pay attention to the multiple meanings. Think about the play of literal and figurative language and the assumptions we make when reading or listening to music, especially the assumptions that come packaged with what we know about the artist.
Anyway, here it is. 50 Cent’s A Baltimore Love Thing: