A very gauche post

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.

6 thoughts on “A very gauche post”

  1. I’ve been mulling this over since last night. I have a couple of suggestions (sorry if these are duplicates). FIrst off, I think that Maine Women Work and Community might be able to help you, especially if you were considering giving these talks as an ongoing thing. Coastal Enterprises Inc. may also help. That said, both of those are more geared towards starting your own business, but I know that both are very helpful and could maybe point you in the right direction for funding and also for facilities to hold events. Additionally, Maine Humanities council has a ton of grants (I know, you’re probably super over writing grants being in the NP sector) and I think your speaking events would be right up their alley. The other thing I thought of was doing a Kickstarter type fundraiser. You obviously have a ton of people interested already, and this might be a good bet for you.
    As for making money blogging, let me know if you figure it out. The only thing I can think of is doing what the Bloggess does and have a certain amount of space available for advertisers, and you set the price and let them come to you. That way you have control over what is on your site.
    Hope this helps, good luck.

    • Mommyk8’s list of resources is intriguing!
      IMHO, I’m happy to read that Night with BGIM has a momentum. You gotta go with that. Frame it as an event project like you would at work. Establish a plan, goals, revenue & expenses, funding sources, venue, media plan (all your radio and publication contacts) etc…throw out an invite to anyone who would like to help with this planning. (One of those resources might offer planning help if not $). But don’t lose the mo mo (motivation and momentum).

      And, going out on a limb to share that I’ve recently been enjoying the heck out of comic and actor Aisha Tyler’s podcast Girl on Guy (girlonguy.NET ; NOT .com, that is something else!) and her book Self-Inflicted Wounds. It is far more inspirational than I imagined, (I was just looking for laughs.)
      Anyway, if you look up previous podcasts the ones with Rob Delaney and RuPaul are incredibly inspiring and speak to creative work….OMG, the work!

    • I think that aside from the big bloggers like Jenny, most of us aren’t going to make enough money from advertisers to earn anything more than mad money.

      I love your ideas but I will say that grants are never easy to get and doing grant work as part of my day job, I admit to a certain level of reservation with the grant process.

      In the end, I am thinking that falling back on my consulting work and using this space as a springboard might be my best approach to actually earning anything.

  2. Boy can I relate to this! In the years I’ve been blogging, first for myself, and then for my entrepreneurial start-up TheSmartGirlsWay.com I have given my heart and soul. It’s true that what I learned had value beyond money, I self published a book and was introduced to the world of Angel Investing. But the irony was I was writing about how women entrepreneurs will change the world.

    • It is hard as women to know our value, we give our hearts and soul and in some ways it seems wrong to put a price on what we enjoy and love doing. I think for me, it’s only been the time factor that has made me start to think, I need to make some changes.

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