Genius loci

The Power of Incremental Creativity

1 May 2024

It might seem odd to discuss writing using the language of commerce, but perhaps the connection isn’t so tenuous. Francis Bacon must have understood this when he wrote about the “idol of the market,” a term he used to express the idea that language often gets in the way of human understanding. He saw the communication of ideas as the fundamental premise of the marketplace, not money. For money, like ideas, are valuable because they represent other things.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of my (creative and financial) reality. My newborn is to thank. With him in my arms for much of the day, my windows of opportunity to create are more often closed than open. But when they do crack open, I take the opportunity to write instead of sleep. These short and infrequent moments have led me to think about the power of incremental progress, and how it is not unlike squirreling away a few dollars here and there into a savings account.

I track how many words I write each day. I make no distinction between a “good” or “bad” word. I track raw words. On some days, I only write 100 words. On others, with a small window of opportunity open, I write 1,000 of them. Some days, no windows open for me. Though, I’ve written on average 12,000 words each month this year. That’s around 400 words a day, on average, or about 145,000 words a year.

Words are not unlike dollars in a savings account. They accrue. As there is no distinction between a “good” or “bad” dollar, each word written is a way to positively invest in your work and creativity.

And this — the very act of putting words into the metaphorical account — pays off. What I mean is that the very act of writing a few words every day, especially when you’re working on a project, creates a value that is greater than the sum of its parts. This compounds over time, as writing begets writing. Plus, your writing improves, resulting in more bang-for-your-buck.

My online pal Joanna Penn talks about her books as intellectual property assets, a concept I find interesting. Completed works — for that is the goal, isn’t it? — are assets. They are the things that give your creative portfolio value, from a creative and financial standpoint. As assets, your creativity can never be liabilities. You just need to remember to make regular deposit.


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My work

I interviewed Ryan Murdock about his latest book A Sunny Place for Shady People: How Malta Became One of the Most Curious and Corrupt Places in the World for his book launch. I published the interview on Travel Writing World (web and your favorite podcast player), or you can watch it on the publisher’s YouTube channel.

I attempt to define a subgenre of narrative nonfiction: the global ideas travel book.

I made three entries in my Creator’s Log reflecting on and documenting the process of writing a book proposal.

From around the web

Deskbound Traveller reports on the shortlist for the Ondaatje Prize, an award of £10,000 for a work that best evokes “the spirit of a place.”

Saraband will publish a “surprising and engaging” anthology of travel writing by women.

Paul Theroux was a guest on the Always Take Notes podcast, which is worth a listen.

Salman Rushdie was a guest on Fresh Air talking about his latest book Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder.

Ryan Murdock speaks will Bill Colegrave about The Wakhan Corridor on the Personal Landscapes podcast.

Ash Bhardwaj and Pip Stewart chat about Ash’s new book Why We Travel.