Angela Benedetti pointed me toward an interesting exercise in considering money as time, money as money, and how writers convert time into money by spending time. Camille LaGuire makes a point about the time spent doing something as mundane as making a brown-bag lunch costs writing time, and a meal purchased out can be a relative bargain. In part, she says:
But writers are in the business of creating assets.
We don’t have to buy them with money. We can buy them with time.
Therefore the time and effort involved in brown-bagging it to save a few bucks on lunch could cost you in terms of your ability to write a book. I did a calculation once that the time and effort that goes into making a bagged lunch — shopping, fixing and cleaning up — costs me about 500 finished words of writing time, and if I valued that book at $5000 in bonds (5k being an average advance I could expect to get for the book) the darned bagged lunch cost me $40.
We won’t even discuss the likelihood of a writer in my genre getting that sort of advance. We’ll stick with discussing time. The rest of Camille’s discussion is here.
I don’t know how she arrived at that figure in terms of time, because I’m not looking at the sandwich and fixings as the only time-consumers in the transaction. I think those are incremental costs on something I’m going to be doing anyway.
I have a family: they go through a substantial amount of milk, bread, and whatever else is going into the meals for the week. They are a hungry lot, so I’m in the store anyway, because no matter what my time may be worth in current or future earnings, my cash is limited and the Marital Unit inclined to buy five-gallon containers of things we will only eat in pint quantities, “because it’s a bargain, honey!”
How much time extra does it take to drop the packet of sliced turkey in the cart? Surely not enough time to write a paragraph. The bread is already on my list and I own the mayonnaise. Building the sandwich is a moment’s work at home.
The Locusts I Live With want dinner on a regular basis, I like to eat too, and cooking is a creative outlet for me. The time shouldn’t be counted against writing time. Besides, I fling a pan in the oven and the next thirty minutes are mine! Since neither the MU nor I are especially adept at portion control, there’s almost always a serving or two of dinner left, which goes to work with me the next day. Where’s the incremental time in that? Particularly since the Junior Locusts are the clean-up squad. This option isn’t available to all writers, but trust me, I’d rent them out real cheap some days.
There’s an argument to be made as well on cooking preserving one’s writing ability, if one reads The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. To sustain your creativity, she explains, you must replenish your artist’s soul with small treats and expressions of creativity. That’s a pretty good argument for a nice meal in itself, since cooking is edible art for me, and brownies maintain my soul, if not my waistline.
So, Camille, I will leave you to your lunch out, which you value differently than I do, and Julia and I will enjoy what’s in my brown bag some days, and a lunch out the other days, when it’s a treat. And we’ll save you a brownie.