I don’t remember how I stumbled onto the term ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’. It was probably in a forum and I tried not to give it a second though. Yet, it really struck a chord with me because it touches on how I see parts of my life. The meme kind of explains it, but I’ll give a better definition. At least, I’ll try.
Sunk Cost Fallacy– Sunk costs are money, time, effort, and power that have already been put into a project. They cannot be recovered or reclaimed. A person looks at these as a reason to continue on a path that is no longer garnering success. We go ‘I already invested in this, so I may as well keep going’ and continue without much in the way of adjustment or considering walking away. The past costs are included in our future decisions even though they’re gone and cannot be recovered.
Most times I see this is in regards to business or relationships. Yet, it can be used for just about anything that a person invests time and money into. We’re raised with a variety of sayings to lock in the sunk cost fallacy too:
- Your time will come.
- Hard work will always get you to success.
- Quitting is for losers.
- Determination is key.
- Things will change for the better if you have faith.
All of these are phrases we use to make sure we never give up regardless of how badly things are going. Makes sense in some arenas, but they turn up for everything. Our society hates quitting, which is why we idolize those who appear to be those who never give up. Although, if you look at most idols, many of them have a moment where they recognized a sunk cost fallacy and bailed. Any rich person who saw the signs and left before a company went under actually quit in the face of inevitable disaster. We call that smart for them, but other people who do it get laughed at. That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into.
How does this relate to me and writing?
I wonder if I’m living a ‘sunk cost fallacy’. I’ve put so much money, energy, and time into my dream of being an author. Now, it’s mostly time and energy. Yet, I’m not going anywhere and it doesn’t look like that will change. It’s even a challenge doing the writing part these days. As it stands, I probably won’t be able to work on anything new until the summer unless I utilize my weekends properly. That’s going to be touch since it’s a long run until the next break and I’ll be exhausted. This is when people typically tell me that I just have to be patient and my time will come, but that rings hollow after 20 years. In fact, this is what feeds the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.
The reason I keep going is because I don’t know any better and I think about all of the time and effort I put into it. Quitting will make me feel bitter, defeated, and broken since writing and publishing was the dream. Even if I couldn’t make enough money to live comfortably, I’d like to get a steady stream of sales. An occasional blast usually gives me $15-$17, but that happens once every 2-3 months. I’d boost the prices up to $2.99 again, but what would the point be? Nobody seems to be interested, including many who cheer me on. Don’t even get me started on how I’d only be able to get reviews if I paid people or sent out thousands of free copies, which I always thought was against Amazon guidelines. I guess that’s only if you’re reported or not popular enough to get away with it. End of that rant for now.
So, do I continue the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ or do I give up? I know the rhetoric about following your dream. I see that I have limited time and many on this side of the Internet aren’t supportive at all. Me continuing to write is seen as sad and wasteful. It’s not even considered a hobby by some while other people don’t even remember or acknowledge that I do it. This amplifies the situation since I now have people telling me to give up and that I wasted my time. Let’s leave out that I had a good run, but learned later that someone took action that secretly hurt me. Guess there’s a sense that I’m not failing on my own terms too, which may keep me going. It’s all a hodgepodge of thoughts with several that I can’t talk about on the blog.
Anyway, what do you think of the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ in regards to artistic endeavors?