Sunday, January 6, 2013

How Writing is Like the Stock Market

Once I dreamed of being a factory.  In discipline, not in product: I dreamed of cranking out page after page, manuscript after manuscript, of setting up a schedule and achieving it without fail.  But the discipline of writing, I discovered, is not much like factory work. 

Driven by emotion, subject to unpredictability, writing is so much more like the stock market.

Please note: I'm not an expert at the stock market by any means.  But my father is, and some of what he has tried to teach me has managed to stick in my head.  These are the lessons I learned from him.  

1.  The Stock Market is Not Consistent

The market goes up and down.  Your energy will go up and down.  Governments may try to stimulate the stock market by fiddling with interest rates or tax codes.  It doesn't guarantee a rise in profits.  Likewise, you may gulp down expresso after expresso, but that does not mean the pages will come flowing out.  Some days are a struggle and you just can't help it.

2.  There are Trends in the Stock Market

My father has a trader's almanac, which tells him that September is historically a low-performing month, while December will usually be higher during the season of Christmas.  Likewise, I know that historically I am most energetic in the spring, whereas my energy decreases from November and December, due to darkness and holiday stress.  This helps me as I work out my goals.

Aside from seasonal trends, you can see the state of the economy based on news and a careful observation of sectors and companies.  In this way, you can forecast your energy levels based on upcoming events.  Moving?  Vacation?  Surgery?  Maybe you'd better invest your time in journaling or just skip writing altogether.

3.  The Most Money is Made in Spurts

Most sectors chug up and down, up and down, and remain pretty flat.  But then, all it once, they have a hot streak.  This is when you need to be in the market.  This is when the profit reels in.  Likewise, when you write.  You chug and chug until you hit a bubble of inspiration that lifts you to the heights of glory.

The lesson seems to be to cash in only when the market is hot, but wise investors know that by the time the general public is aware of a trend, chances are that trend has already topped out.  In order to make sure you're in right when the market is starting to go up, you have to be on the look out every single day.  Writers need to catch burst of inspirations and milk them for all their worth, but to do that, they must be constantly prepared, constantly writing.   

4. You Can Make Money No Matter What

If the market is going down, you can still make money.  You just have to change your strategy.  Maybe you sink your money into bonds.  Maybe you play the "bear market," and invest in the market continuing to fall.  Maybe you take money out of the market and pay off debts, "making" money by getting rid of the life-sucking high interest rates.  You can always do something.

If writing a particular chapter gets you nowhere and you're feeling constantly uninspired, try something else.  Write a short story.  Do some research.  Go tackle that pile of chores you've been meaning to get to which is always in the back of your mind and starting to give you anxiety.  If you aren't productive in one thing, try another.
5. You Will Lose Money

No matter how professional you are, how wise, how experienced, you will make bad choices at least some of the time.  If you can't stomach the thought of losing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, then playing the stock market may not be right for you.  Similarly, all writers throw away hundreds, if not thousands of pages.  If you get too cannot let go of what you write, this might not be the profession for you.  But if you don't get too attached to your every gain, you'll find that you will prosper indeed.

6. Even the Stock Market Gets Days Off

And so should you. 


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