Stock and Flow

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A Basic Content and Social Media Strategy for OneSentForth

Austin Kleon wrote a great book about creativity and audience-building that I’ve read multiple times. It’s called Show Your Work, and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s ever wondered aloud, “How do I get my stuff out there? How do I get noticed? How do I find an audience?”

There’s a great section in the book called “Stock and Flow,” where Kleon mentions an article that economist Robin Sloan wrote in 2010. In the article, she mentions the economic concepts of stock and flow. She defines stock as anything having static value - like a specific amount of money in the bank, or a certain number trees in the forest. Flow is a rate of change. For example, fifteen dollars per hour or three thousand toothpicks per day.

She then uses those concepts as a metaphor for modern media consumption. I think it’s a useful metaphor for anyone interested in developing content or becoming an influencer.

She says:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

Robin Sloan

She goes on to say that the magic formula is to maintain a flow (tweets and posts) while working on your stock (evergreen content) in the background.

The Stock and Flow analogy reminded me of something I read about Malcolm Gladwell’s process for becoming a best-selling author of category-busting books like The Tipping Point. He obviously gained valuable experience writing articles for the New Yorker magazine, but perhaps more importantly, he was able to explore and develop ideas and content that he would later use in his best-selling books.

If we think of those books as his stock, then those articles in the New Yorker would be his flow. (Any of us might feel that having an article published in the New Yorker would be our stock, but this is Malcolm Gladwell we’re talking about here.)

Shawn Coyne is an editor at Black Irish Books and the author of The Story Grid. He created a podcast series analyzing the process behind the development of The Tipping Point. In the episode entitled, “Out of the Rabbit Hole,” he talks about stock and flow, but he uses the Hebrew concepts of “kavanah” and “matarah.”

Here’s that segment in its entirety:

Just before the Israeli military’s blitzkrieg offensive against the allied Arab nations massed at its borders in 1967, the word repeated over and over again on Air Force bases and on the sands of the Sinai was “Kavanah.”

Kavanah means grand intention. The Sabras were instructed to remember just one thing when the chaos of combat overwhelmed them: "Remember the Kavanah."

For the pilots their global mission was to wipe out Arab airstrips while defending Israeli airspace. If they took care of the airstrips, defending the air space would be a hell of a lot easier…. For the ground troops, it was to keep moving forward…to reach and seize the Suez Canal. Taking the Suez Canal would inevitably lead to international intervention… The United States and the U.S.S.R. would jump into the fray if the canal were at stake. Together, those two missions would add up to Israel’s security…at least until the next mobilization of Arab forces.

Kavanahs are not Matarahs, which are building block objectives. (For us writers Matarahs are daily word counts or scene objectives or outlines).

Kavanahs are the global intention. So when pilots lost course on their way to destroy Arab air bases, they did not panic. They realized that while they would not accomplish the immediate Matarah objective, bombing the specific base they’d been assigned, they could still chip away at the Kavanah by bombing another airstrip in their path.

Shawn Coyne

What Shawn Coyne calls the “Kavanah,” or global intention, Robin Sloan calls “stock.” It’s the end game that we hope to accomplish. It’s “the entity.”

Matarot (plural form of matarah), are the daily objectives, the short-term goals that (ideally) move us towards the kavanah.

My kavanah / stock / grand intention is to write a book or make something that helps people become and produce disciples of Jesus Christ. The rough draft of that book can be found here. Updates to that site will be less frequent.

In the meantime, I will use this site as a platform for distributing my matarot, building block content. I will repeat myself often, experimenting with different ways of attacking a problem, probing for the most effective arguments, analogies and language that will ultimately be used in the book - my grand intention.