A time for stock, a time for flow

Our work can be divided into stock and flow, a metaphor that Robin Sloane expanded from its roots in economics.

Flow is the work you share with the world on a regular cadence—think Tweets and blog posts. Stock is the long term stuff. It’s the novel. It’s the product that you’ve been coding in preparation for launch. It’s the research you’re doing for a book. It’s the journaling. It's most likely evergreen.

I’ve mostly been in stock mode: working on short stories in private. I haven't shared most of them either because I don't believe they work or they're not ready. I’m submitting the ones that meet my own bar to magazines, which, I've learned, involves a lot of waiting. Think months, not days. I also don't post many of my stories because I’m trying the traditional publishing route. Posting them publicly nullifies exclusive first rights of publishing.

But I’ve missed flow.

I miss publishing my thoughts publicly. I miss getting into the rhythm of sharing widely and more often. Until recently, I’ve been dipping my toe in a few Tweets, newsletters, articles. Now I’m starting to lower myself deeper into the stream. Perhaps waist level.

We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve posted a few things since the last newsletter. If you enjoy them, share with a friend or a feed!

The Start of Fish - A short story about sentient fish sauce and regaining confidence.

Lifetime Value - A short story about logistical murder in the workplace.

Continuous Publishing - The phenomenon of writers thinking out loud online instead of ruled by the publish button.

My Journey from Frame Maker to Painter - The mindset required to create content versus building platforms.

The Danger of Reading Finished Works - To study craft is to study the process.

Last week, I tweeted out an offer to help entrepreneurs and creatives:

I got over fifty responses, ranging from startup founders to writers to folks in the entertainment industry. It’s been good to network again, but this time, purely on the helping side of the table.

These meetings have led me to think about conversations. Our notion of self is simply a thread of interconnected stories. Our most personal stories are still relayed orally, even in this hyperconnected age. I theorize that when meeting new people, we have only a dozen stories that we repeat.

The start of most new relationships are a performance of your greatest hits. Think of the stories you tell most often. They've been well honed—A/B tested over time with hundreds of people. It’s like a standup routine. These conversations are your Netflix special.

Each story serves as a potential foothold. When one piques the interest of both participants, then it's time to go off script—the real conversation starts. Unless, of course, one person keeps performing, in which case, they’re a bad conversationalist and should be avoided.

It’s a shame that these stories are never set to paper. Recently, I’ve been trying to write down my dozen stories. The years of honing means that these stories have been edited in my mind, reducing the friction in linearizing them into text.

There’s an old saying that everyone has a novel in them. This doesn’t hold up to scrutiny if you simply modify “novel” to “good novel.” Anyone can mechanically type out 70,000 bad words. But I do believe everyone has a dozen good stories in them. Imagine a world where we all shared them online instead of a feed of vacation Instagram photos. We’d be able to virtually have a first coffee with anyone in the world.

I’ve been secretly drawing some comics lately, starting from the idea: what if Ted Chiang drew comics? I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s been a blast. Here’s a couple panels:

I enjoyed reading Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China.

Western media has a pretty myopic view of China: either it’s a dire dystopia or it's the future of humanity. I wanted a book that followed real young Chinese nationals to get their perspective. Alec Ash does a good job weaving a diverse set of first accounts together. I’d recommend it if you want to up level your understanding of how the next generation is thinking about China’s future.