Is money like water? Economist John Maynard Keynes believed so.
One of his breakthrough ideas was to model wealth as a circular flow.
It was not enough just to make money; money also had to be spent freely for the economy to grow. A healthy economy would avoid blocking this “circular flow of income” by prioritizing both income generation AND expenditure.
Writing flows as well.
In fact, I believe there is a “circular flow of words” that can help explain why some writers make a living and become wealthy from their work, while others remain unread.
A circular flow of words is a flow between the writer, who generates words to be read, and the reader, who consumes those words and demands more. As the reader demands more words, the writer writes more, feeding the reader’s desire.
This is the route to wealth, both in terms of literary value and income in the writer’s pocket.
Blocks in the circular flow of words can occur when, for example, the writer doesn’t put his/her work out for publication, or the reader doesn’t want to read the writer’s work.
Blocks keep wealth from being generated.
If the writer’s work isn’t in demand, the writer is less likely to produce books at a high output—if nothing else because he/she has a living to earn in other ways. And, if the writer’s work is kept private, or only circulated among friends, fewer readers are likely to demand it.
For me, there is one clear strategy to avoid clogging up the flow of words, a strategy that Keynes might have agreed with:
Spend words as fast as you write them.
In other words, make the intention to seek publication for every written piece, and don’t hold onto your work any longer than necessary. Write it and get it out there, so you can start writing the next piece.
This is perhaps the most important advice I could give a beginning writer.
Don’t be precious about your words. Don’t linger over things you’ve written that you are particularly pleased with. Instead, get it published and get writing something else. There are always more words where those came from.
Too many writers hoard their words, saving them up for publication “some day.” They believe that the more writing they do, the more valuable their stash.
But words don’t gain value until they are read. Just as money is nothing more than a stack of colored paper until it is spent.
One could even argue that books only exist in the moment they’re read, or translated from black marks on a page into a living narrative in the reader’s imagination. Like Schrodinger’s cat, a book exists merely in the realm of possibilities until the moment of observation.
Like all art, books require the participation of not only the creator but also the consumer. A painting is nothing more than an object consisting of canvas and ink until someone looks at it and the eyes and brain interface to create meaning.
So if you want to become wealthy as a writer—to write great works and earn a good income—follow the trail of value to the most readers.
Writing something “great” is unlikely to come from spending ages perfecting a single piece of writing.
Rather, great writing flows from a simple practice: writing as much as you can, gaining a following, coming to understand your readers (and what works), and putting in your 10,000+ hours on the craft.
Write a lot, get it out there, then write some more. A simple formula for word wealth.