You know, there’s a non-zero probability that I would’ve actually enjoyed being an economist

I spent a not-insignificant period of time today assigning project codes to all of the stories and novels that I’ve worked on in the past two years, and then going through my spreadsheet and assigning a project code to each day (since for the past two years I’ve been keeping notes on what I work on each day). Using those project codes, I’m now able to estimate (with a middling degree of accuracy) how many days I worked on something, how many hours I spent on it, and how many words I wrote during the drafting and revision process.

And while I was doing this, I couldn’t help but think…this is not only fascinating, it’s also pretty fun. Ever since I was a lad, I haven’t found it at all difficult to get lost in spreadsheets for hours.

When I was in college, I majored in Economics. That was partly because Economics is a really easy major, but it was also partly because I was (and am) interested in the social sciences. And, of course, I worked as an economist (or at least an economist-type person) for the World Bank for several years. There was a time in my life when I very seriously considered trying to get a PhD in Economics.

I’m not sad that I’ve given up on that. It was always a very vague and inchoate dream. But I do think there is a part of me that could’ve had a very successful career doing some kind of economics-related work.

I think the problem was that I was just never particularly interested in public policy. If you’re a certain kind of person with a certain kind of politics and you grow up in a certain kind of city (i.e. Washington, DC) you kind of assume that public policy should be your natural focus. But, as a subject matter, it was never quite right for me. The essence of public policy is an interest in minutiae: fishing quotas and graduation rates and negative income taxes and district boundaries and all the rest of that stuff. It’s not that I can’t be interested in small things, it’s just that everything in the public policy world felt a bit too fine-grained for me.

However, that doesn’t mean that some other area of economics wouldn’t have been interesting, particularly the more research-based side of it.


On the other hand, I’m not sure that being an economist would’ve been very different from being a writer. It still would’ve meant a lifetime of being by myself, alone, behind a desk.

Honestly, if I wasn’t going to be a writer, I’d much rather be something active and implementation-oriented: a (certain kind of) civil servant or manager or business development guy. Something where you’re: a) dealing with other people; and b) actually constructing or making or doing something concrete that actually exists in the world in touchable form.