The Price of Written Work

Time, attention, and focus are the most valuable things any of us have.

The price of a writer’s work, and the most valuable thing a reader gives for a book, article, essay, short story, or post, is not the cost of the physical product. The price of a writer’s work is the time it takes to read it. 

An average person reads at a pace of 25-30 pages an hour, which might be a bit slower than the average writer. That’s a good measuring stick for the price of a book. Honestly, I’ve asked myself if my 200 page novel was worth a day’s work. Does it contain enough depth, twists in expectations, robust and specific language, and a well-developed sense of the world that, in the mind of the reader, is enough to generate meaning? If not, I haven’t done my job. If so, and this is a subjective judgement call-to be sure, I’m ready to move forward.

I, of course, can’t determine the value of my work for readers. Nobody’s work will appeal to everyone. Everyone’s work will be skimmed, ignored, or rejected somewhere by someone, and that’s not a bad thing. Writers don’t sell sprockets. Writers don’t sell cans of Coke, cigarettes, or sex (even if we write about sex, we only use words). Writers don’t sell paper bound in cardboard or laminate.

Writers sell an experience. 

Books, like talk, are cheap. Dollars to minutes, most books give a longer experience for the price tag than movies. Don’t kid yourself. Writers compete with film and television production companies for an audience, and there are only twenty-four hours in a day.

Do most books give more for the time spent? Do they provide more excitement? Provoke more thought? Generate more meaning? Give a greater, deeper experience?

Of course not, but they can. Books have more potential than any other medium.

The price of a writer’s work is the time it takes to read it.

Books can give more excitement, more thought, and a greater, deeper experience.

Books that develop meaning are by far the best entertainment available. Books, minute for minute, eclipse all other forms of entertainment on the market. Language gets in your head literally, figuratively, and literarily. 

When I evaluate my writing, I try to keep in mind that the physical product is not the issue (though it’s important). I ask myself: 

  • What experience have I created? 
  • Is this worth the time it takes? 
  • What’s truly at stake in what I’m writing?
  • How can I distill the point?
  • How can I expand/develop the point?

I don’t always succeed, but the challenge gets me going in the morning.

Image by Jon Tyson courtesy of Unsplash

HAVE YOU EVER LOST THE THREAD OF WHAT MADE A PIECE WORTH WRITING? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THE CHALLENGE AND REGAIN YOUR SENSE OF PURPOSE, IMMEDIACY, AND ENGAGEMENT?

JOIN THE CONVERSATION WITH A COMMENT OR QUESTION BELOW.

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