I’ve been meaning to comment on this article from Snarkmarket for a few days. That I haven’t until now is just more proof that I’m a bit out of sorts.
The key bit:
Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got nothing here.
But I’m not saying you should ignore flow! No: this is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after long months or years with your perfectly-polished opus. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you? And even if they don’t—even if your exquisitely-carved marble statue of Boba Fett is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days—if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (here it is!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find them all again next time you emerge from your cave.
Man, oh, man, do I ever understand this. With a recently released novel that I’m actively promoting — my schedule here — and a full-time job and a marriage and needy dogs and football and a Wii that simply must be played, I’m finding it more difficult than it’s ever been to just write.
I’m not, by the way, suggesting that anyone feel sorry for me. I’m the luckiest bastard in the world to have a novel and a full-time job and a marriage and needy dogs and a Wii that simply must be played. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people would trade places with me in a heartbeat, even if it meant taking on my horrible fashion sense. I get that.
I’m simply saying that I’m struggling with the balance. I’m sure I’ll find it. I have to find it. Aspiring writers are told at every juncture that they need to have a platform, that writing well isn’t enough, that they have to drum up interest in their work. All true, but also all beside the point if the work suffers.
Johnathon Schaech’s character in “That Thing You Do!”, Jimmy, got almost everything wrong in the movie — he walked away from Liv-Freakin’-Tyler! — but was unassailably correct on one thing:
“The point of all of this,” he tells Mr. White (Tom Hanks) while the manager is regaling the band with all the fun they’ll have in California, “is to make more records.”
Amen, Jimmy Mattingly.
Thus concludes today’s flow. Stock awaits.