Bits and pieces of this blog post have been floating around in my head for months, but due to my own fears and insecurities, even though I have occasionally touched upon the topic, I have shied away for fear of offending readers or fear of being judged. However for the past several days, I have not been able to shake this idea and a discussion with a fellow writer pretty much pushed me over the edge. I might lose a few readers and while that would be sad, there comes a time when you just have to throw caution to the wind and follow your instincts.
I am at creative crossroads, I love words, I always have. Writing is my way of making sense of the world and I enjoy it far more than I ever enjoyed therapy. In the past eighteen months or so this blog and the related blog work has grown into a time consuming endeavor. No longer is it just writing a post, putting it up on the blog and going about my day. I field no less than 30 emails on any given day, there are requests to speak, requests to write for other outlets and the list goes on. One would think that with all this activity which is a good thing that there might be some type of compensation involved but the fact is there is none. Since January of this year, I have received exactly one request that included compensation.
In the past, I was pretty happy to just take the opportunities to express myself and never thought too seriously about compensation, in part because I didn’t think that what I was doing was worthy of receiving compensation. I had played around the edges of money and blogging a few years ago and frankly, I was burned. A former reader told me that “You just tell stories and why would I pay to read stories?” I received that comment a few years ago and it’s one that I carried with me for quite some time, but in recent months I have revisited the idea of “just telling stories”. Stephen King “just tells stories” too but the last time I checked he gets compensated pretty damn well for his stories.
For those of us who create non tangible items especially in this digital age, it can be hard to know what the value of our work is. Is it valuable at all or are we just fooling ourselves? Personally I have struggled with this because no one asked me to start a blog, I could stop at any time, so why should I ask anyone to pay for it? Good questions. Most bloggers earn revenue through ads and things of that nature and I did try a short stint with BlogHer (blog network) and realized that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Ads for breakfast sausage just aren’t my thing and I doubt they are yours either. People who read this space aren’t looking to win fruit chews or lipsticks and most likely aren’t clicking on to ads in enough volume to make it worth the extra work on my end.
However as the years pass by and readership grows, as of late I find myself thinking that what I do here really is a bit different especially as the blogging landscape has changed. You will not find any pretty pictures, giveaways or fluff here but you will find some food for thought. On the BGIM Facebook page, you will find a growing community ready to talk openly about that which many shy away from.
In attempting to launch the “Night with BGIM” project, I have been blown away by how many people are interested in attending. Frankly, I figured a handful of readers and I would get together over food and chew the fat, now I am struggling to find a suitable venue and people have reached out from all over the state. Hell, I have had people from outside of the state asking me to put together something. I am actually toying with an online format to host such a gathering in the future.
Despite all the great energy and amazing discussions I have not wanted to talk about things like money because it seems so gauche, even tacky. Instead like a coward I reinstated the tip jar on the sidebar which I figure no one actually sees since many of us are reading on mobile devices. Thinking that maybe it would serve as a gentle hint. Then again, how many of us ignore that tip jar at the counter of the local *insert business*? The truth is and I have said it before, I host my own site and there are costs to running it. Never mind the increasing time spent on the site and related work. It’s a labor of love but can one not be passionate about what they do and still earn money?
I am a fan of Elephant Journal; if you have never read it take a peek. They have good stuff but they also have a unique way of seeking support. At the end of each article, they have a suggested donation system $1, $2 or $3. Or you can donate a yearly sum and have full access to their site all the time, since they do have a pay wall, you can read 10 articles a week, after that, you have to donate something. Several months ago, I went for the annual plan, I love their stuff and for me it is something I value.
As I stated at the beginning, these thoughts had been swirling in my mind for some time but today when I was taking with a fellow writer friend, it really came to life for me. My pal is a writer who has written for some of the biggest publications around, she’s got a great body of work and she is also now in a financial jam because many publications, don’t pay their writers. While I do have a day job, no matter how shitty the pay is, it pays something. But for someone attempting to make a living by their words (really most creative types), the belief that content is free/should be free is killing writers (and other creatives).
Part of why I started writing and looking to grow my audience is because all the helpful HR types will tell ya, you need to be versatile in this new economy, no one trick ponies, please. But having great writing and speaking chops doesn’t mean much of anything, if the people consuming it but don’t see any value in actually paying for it.
Am I asking you to pay for the work here? I leave that to you and your judgment. I am going to keep writing as long as it is possible. Just like at my day job, the doors stay open as long as I have the strength and desire to do so. Writing feeds my soul, this is my public space to share it and stimulate conversation. Books, articles, art and music may not be necessities but often they add such joy and beauty to our lives that making sure their creators are compensated isn’t a stretch for me.
I may be just a storyteller and while that stung a few years ago, now I accept it with grace because storytellers add a certain beauty to our world.