Creativity and Opportunity Cost

In business there’s a concept called opportunity cost. Choosing one thing, to put it simply, means passing up the chance to do something else. There’s an assumption that resources are finite, so you can’t pick everything. The “cost” is the value or benefit that you’re passing up in order to pick the option that hopefully gives you a better return.

This applies to life in general. If you’re on a budget, buying one thing means you can’t buy something else. You choose to buy new shoes rather than going out to dinner, because in the long run you think you’ll get more use out of the shoes. If you can only see one movie, you pick the one that you think you’ll enjoy most. You want to sleep, but losing a couple of hours to write means you make the deadline, and what you gain from that is worth the cost of some shuteye.

When you’re a creative person, opportunity cost can be measured in projects. If I choose to write one book, it means I’m not writing a different one — at least, not until the current one is finished. When Katie decides to make one doll, it means she’s not working on a different doll. The cost is what we may have learned, the creative expression we could have exercised, and possibly the money we could have mode with the un-created thing. We feel that the project we chose instead will yield something better, or possibly just want we want or need at tcrhe moment.

A lot of people say they can’t find the time to create, or read, or exercise, or whatever it is they’re not doing that they think they should. They’re probably not thinking of those things in terms of activity costs when they’re watching TV, playing video games, or loitering on social media. Katie and I have both been criticized — well, it was meant as criticism — over our prolific creative output with phrases like “you must have a lot of time on your hands”. No, we have the 24 hours in a day that everyone else gets. We choose to use our free time making things, rather than being consumers of entertainment.

Which brings me to my final point. Some folks have been trying to point out this terrible thing in the news that I may have missed, or that funny thing on Facebook, or the other trending¬†chingadera on Twitter, or whatever. I really have no use for it. Think of it in terms of opportunity cost. I’ve been making a conscious choice to not get sucked into politics and fandom and other hot-button nonsense and focus on this blog, the zine, the game stuff, and the podcast. My creative work, not other peoples’ trivial pursuits.¬†The world might be on fire, or the cure for cancer could be discovered, but I’ve still gotta make rent.

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