Writing, Writing Hypothesis

What’s Your Story’s Worth??

I was folding laundry while I watched TedTalks on Netflix this morning.  I’ve learned if I want to be productive with the TV on, I can watch TedTalks or an episode of Hoarders.  If I watch TedTalks, I learn something new.  If I watch Hoarders, I want to throw out everything in my home.  Both shows seem to increase productivity when I’m stuck doing mindless, boring housework, more so than if I put a movie on.

Anyway, the TedTalk featured Paul Bloom: The Origins of Pleasure.  (Here’s the link below.)

Paul Bloom explained that much of the value of an object comes from the object’s origins.  For example, a simple sweater from a thrift store is perceived to have less value than the SAME sweater if it came from a movie star or a famous person.  A painting created by a famous artist has more value than a forgery, even though the forgery looks identical to the original painting.

I’ve seen this in my own life.  My hubby purchased two boxes of chocolates and gave them to me.  He bought them both when they were on sale.  One box was eaten rather quickly.  The other box was savored over the course of several weeks.  I opened up both boxes within minutes of each other on the same day.  Both boxes were delicious!  Chocolate.  Yum.  Yay hubby!!  What were the differences?  Why did I value one box more than the other?  Why did I savor the second box of chocolates but not the first?  Well…the first box was just good chocolate.  The second box had a booklet with a story for each piece of candy.  The first box of chocolates was probably better quality with a higher percentage of cocoa powder, but it didn’t have an elegant story about Marc de Champagne, or Swiss mountains, or Parisienne ladies.

As I’m folding t-shirts, I thought about perceived value and how it affects me as a writer.  I read something on a Facebook post the other day.  Several writers were commenting on the length of time it takes them to write a string of words.  One of the commenters mentioned it took them weeks, perhaps months to write a single chapter.  This person commented that they wished they could write faster and cited other published authors who are able to create large volumes of work within a short period time.  This simple wishful comment immediately brought on a slew of sour grape remarks about writing quality versus quantity.  The general perception seemed to be that a book written quickly over the course of a few weeks couldn’t possibly be as valuable as one written over a longer period of time.

Here’s my hypothesis:

I know some writers are more proficient than others, but wonder if you took the SAME well edited book and told one group of readers it took you 3 weeks or less to write this story, and told another group it took you over a year to write the SAME story, would the book’s value change?  I think…yes.  I’m not sure what this change in perception would look like in dollars and cents, but I think readers who were told they were reading a story that was written rather quickly would feel the book had less value, even if the quality and editing were superb.  All things being equal, value isn’t necessarily based on what is seen, but on its origins.  A forged painting may appear indistinguishable to the original artwork, but it doesn’t have the same origin story.

What does this mean to a writer?  I think a writer can both help and hurt their writing by sharing their origin stories, be it on a blog, a Facebook post, or inside the book itself.  Based on my hypothesis, I think you can take the same book and change the story’s value depending on its origins and what is shared with the reader and what is kept private.  As a writer, I think we can impact our work in many ways, especially on our media platforms.  If nothing else, it’s something to consider.

Have a great day!  JH

4 thoughts on “What’s Your Story’s Worth??”

  1. This is interesting. I know there is certainly a perceived value with length of the work (how many times have I seen “I’m not paying x for a book that’s only x pages!” but had never considered the time angle. The next question would be whether the average reader would actually buy into that (There are many non-writers who think it only takes a month or two to write a book – I’ve run into and had conversations with a bunch of them) or whether it is just our “peer” readers who care.


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