Friday, 15 July 2016

The cost of words

I've been thinking a lot about the cost of words. It mostly came because I was listening to this song, Talk is Cheap and somewhere in the weirdness of my brain I began singing "words are cheap" in my head, then I had to stop and go wait, what? 

(Sorry, my mind is stupid and weird sometimes.)

So now I have this thought in my head, words are cheap. And I've been thinking about whether or not that's true or not, because as a writer I think it's pretty important to know. 

Let's talk about actual monetary value first. First time authors are paid roughly $10,000, and for an average 60,000 word book that's about 16 cents a word. Not bad, all things considered. Of course, you can get paid more or less depending on how well-known you are, and the length of the book changes the outcome as well but it's not a bad estimation. 

Words have an energy investment, too. I'm a major introvert, and holding a conversation with someone drains my energy. I enjoy talking to people, but after a few hours at work or school I need a few hours to recharge. That's not the situation for everyone, of course. Some people recharge by talking to other people (the monsters! How do they survive?), so in that case words are cheap because it doesn't cost them much energy to talk. 

The biggest cost to words, in my opinion, is the emotional investment. Every time I open my mouth or type words on this screen thingy that you're staring at, I allow you into my soul. There are different degrees to it, of course, and I obviously don't allow you into the deepest, darkest layers of my soul every Tuesday and Friday. (I believe we're all happy about this, because the lowest layer of my soul is quite weird and dark and sticky and occasionally sweet and light, and we don't need to trek down there all the time. (Plus there's an embarrassing amount of Spider-Man fan fiction hidden away.)) However, whenever I do share something that's a bit deeper it costs me an emotional investment. It takes courage to share some things. 

The weird thing is that for me, at least, talk costs more than words. If you asked me about something that I cared deeply about in real life, like the representation of women in the media, Christianity, Artemis Fowl, writing, environmental issues, etc. then I could probably tell you two or three things about it then fall silent. But if I could write about it? Well, I've written several books about imaginary people who only exist in my head. Written words cost so much less than talk. Whenever I open my mouth my words fail and crumple in on themselves, like a snowflake that lands on someone's tongue and melts. On the other hand, when my fingers poise over the keyboard they just can't stop dancing across the black and white keys. Somehow the wire between my brain and my mouth was transferred to my fingers. 

I realise that for other people, it's the opposite way. Some people can talk all day, their words never racking up a bill at the bank while I'm left behind, dragging my wheelbarrow of cash to pay for my debts. For some people, words deposit, not subtract, and I would like to pass my congratulations onto you. 

For me, talk isn't cheap. Talk is expensive. Talk, even shallow talk, empties the fridge and leaves nothing left for supper. I can't afford deep talk, I can't afford to be bankrupt and have nothing left in the pantry. But written words bypass the bank and I can go deeper for longer without having to stop, gasping for breath. I can write about heartbreak and anxiety for hours and hours while a half hour conversation about someone's weekend will drain my college fund. 

Words aren't cheap, they never have been. Neither is talk. Some things just cost more than others. 

Which is more expensive for you, written words or talk? 

12 comments:

  1. Talking to people can be draining: mentally and emotionally. I only have a select few people I can actually chat away to, and the rest of them? I genuinely just don't like prolonged conversations with them purely because we have no common ground and quite frankly? They don't like me very much, and the feeling's mutual. And I'm not saying that to sound like some lone stallion with her hair blowing in the wind and smiling....I wish I was more extroverted but no: not me, sorry. Writing is a form of escapism for me, I guess, and theatre. When I'm onstage I'm not myself, I'm whoever I'm pretending to be, and that's how I like it.

    So yeah, speaking is the most expensive currency for me: but when I'm onstage, I can be whoever I want and I find comfort in that and my writing :)

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    1. THANK YOU. You just put into words exactly how I feel sometimes. And it sucks when you're stuck in a room with those people and you're forced to talk because dude, I don't care for you very much.

      That's awesome that you can escape through your theatre. I can never manage to escape my own mind when I act like I can when I write. I suppose they're both exactly the same thing but one you can do in a dark room by yourself with no one else watching.

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  2. Talk is also far from cheap for me. It takes me ages to recharge from a conversation, but writing comes naturally and far more easily. Some days I hardly talk at all simply because I'm lost in a world of my writing, chatting with characters and throwing ideas around in my head. Love this post; beautifully said. :D

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    1. I'm glad you can slip into the writing mind frame so easily! And who needs to talk, anyways? Thanks so much! And thanks for visiting, Melissa!

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  3. Are you me? Wow... we're so similar in this way. Talking discourages me because I never seem to speak the same way outside as I do at home. Ugh. I sound really weird, sometimes my voice is really deep or really high. It sucks.

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    1. I AM NOT ALONE!! Oh my goodness, my voice does that too! It can't decide what pitch it wants to do, then I get my words mixed up and ugh.

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  4. Love this! I definitely relate. I really just cannot talk deeply about things I'm passionate about. Or. . . anything. If I'm really, really comfortable around someone I might manage to be funny, sometimes. But I really can't do talking.

    Writing though is way different. I can write pages and pages on one topic and explore every aspect of it. Written words can convey all of my thoughts on something. While they take less energy for me, they may be worth more to someone else who really wants to know what I'm thinking. When I talk, my words cost me a lot and exhaust me, but they mean very little to the people listening. And then there are those people who talk a LOT but they never even seem to mean what they say. Their words come easily to them. Their words a cheap to them and the people listening because their words don't actually deliver with actions.

    Awesome post! I really enjoyed reading about words. I mean, WORDS man! Gotta love 'em. ;) (Spider-Man fanfiction, huh? What is wrong with that? Spider-Man rules!)

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I'm exactly the same way. I find it definitely costs less energy to talk to someone I know than a stranger. Small talk is basically a silver bullet to my brain.

      Yes, what you said!!! And that's when talk is cheap, when you can just sputter on and on and on about nothing and the words mean so little. (My brother is like that, it drives me insane.)

      I'm so glad you enjoyed it! WORDS ARE AWESOME. (And there's nothing wrong with Spider-Man fanfic, but it's not always sharable because I like other people thinking that I'm not insane.)

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  5. This is perfect. *applauds you* I've tried so hard to explain this to various people who just don't get that talking costs me so much and that I can't afford to talk a lot whenever. I can talk so much about so many things on my blog or in my books, and it generally makes me feel better, but I find it so hard to carry on conversations with other people because I can feel it draining me, and it generally gives me migraines.

    Bless you for writing this. :P

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    1. *applauds you back* I'm so glad that you could relate. That's part of the reason why I started my blog, so I could talk without having to talk. If that makes sense. *scratches head*

      That's crazy that you get migraines, I've never had it that bad. I just have to go lie down or something, although when I was at this birthday party the other day there was so much noise and people and stuff that I struggled to breathe. Which was weird.

      It's good to see you back again :)

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  6. I think for me, it really depends. Talking is really hard for me in general and I will always be better with the written word. I just will. If you were to (for some reason) stand in front of me and read this post to me word for word I'd probably be like "Oh yeah nice me too have a nice life bye" and that would be the extent of our conversation. One time I had a conversation with this girl at my school and our conversation lasted the entire length of the quad and I was overwhelmed by my ability to hold someone's interest that long and it was just weird for me. But, then, that girl was a stranger. If you get me and my best friend in a room, I will probably talk nonstop for the next five hours with her and go home feeling like everything in the world is amazing and good.

    So... yeah, in general, talking is so very expensive, and you nailed it. But there are some awesome people in the world who make it feel cheap for a little while, and I appreciate that.

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    1. You are pretty awesome at using the written word :) And that's amazing that you have friends who you can just talk to without having the difficulty of oh no, I have to use my tongue and lips and vocal cords to make words now what even is life. I'm quite lucky to have a few friends like that, too. *high fives for us* Thanks for commenting, Heather!

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