Stock and Flow

Stock and Flow is an economic concept adapted by writer Robert Sloan as a metaphor for media. He writes:

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

Flow is what I share every day in the form of small updates on social media networks that I think will be helpful to others. Stock is what I share on a weekly basis in the form of blog posts that will have lasting value (I hope). To me, Flow is about breadth, while Stock is about depth. Flow comes and goes, while Stock remains/stays. Flow is ephemeral, while Stock is timeless.

Flow, as I understand it, is a platform for me to think out my ideas aloud in public. Ideas presented are raw, fresh, and unedited. You can share them, build on them, etc. The point is to create something and share these ideas with as many people as possible. Flow is a space for me to be truly divergent and creative. I also treat Flow more like experiments to “test” ideas in public to get feedback.

Stock, for me, is the blog posts I publish here on a weekly basis, which I’ll continue doing for the rest of my life. The ideas I share here are intended to be timeless in their application. I expect readers to get as much value out of them many years from now as much as today. Nothing excites me more than readers adapting my principle-centered ideas to their multifaceted lives, now and in the future. This weblog is my legacy project; it’s my way of contributing lasting value to the world and making a small dent in my corner of the universe.

As an artist who makes things, you need to have both Stock and Flow on a consistent basis. Sloan says that the magic formula is to maintain your Flow while working on your Stock in the background.

Ideas commonly begin from Flow, but may not always end up as Stock — and that’s okay. In order for Flow to become Stock, it has to meet an important criterion: The idea should be timeless in its application and meaning, and it should be as applicable in a few years as it is today. That’s the true litmus test.

Writer Austin Kleon in his book Show Your Work writes:

Your stock is best made by collecting, organizing, and expanding upon your flow.

It’s only when you share ideas with others on a consistent basis that you see the patterns and themes emerging from your updates (Flow), which will point you towards material that may/may not be Stock. There may not be Stock without Flow. For instance, updates you share on social networks could become articles, which could become chapters of a book, and so on. This is how Flow becomes Stock. Small things, over time, get big.

As an artist who makes things, and that’s a lot of us, we need both Stock and Flow in our lives so we can create things that have lasting value as opposed to working on something that is merely fleeting. I’m defining artist in a broad sense here, in that an artist could be writer, designer, engineer, etc, basically anyone who makes art for a living. So, what’s your Stock and Flow?

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