Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Women and Making Money Off Of Blogging

I began blogging in 2008, the year I moved away from Myspace and the small little box of blogging poetry I had been doing amongst a great group of people, to Blogger, an expansive and noisy terrain filled with the movement of people excited about what they are doing, when they hardly know how to define it. I started blogging with the exact same intent that I had pushed my poetry into Myspace- toconnect through my writing in a ( often ) brutally honest way, and to make money through writing.

I've wanted to be a writer since I call remember wanting to do anything. My first piece was a play in elementary school called The Sun and Moon about the Moon's jealousy from being lit simply by the radiance of the sun.  Since then I have filled five or six diaries, the first one beginning around first grade, ( filled with mentions of what toys I played with and how my horse fund was going ) written a newsletter, wrote for my high school newspaper, read a poem at an AIDS vigil, written poems for my lover and my friends and my husband and my children and my mother and my sister and most of all for myself, had poems published online and then in print, wrote for college, wrote for Huffington Post,  and finally been paid for my work.  Mostly, in the years between five and now, 37, I wrote in the silence of an empty audience. I wrote papers and notebooks and notebooks and journals and typewriter and then later computer reams of essays, stories, poems and one and now two novels.  I have spent more time writing than I have showering, having sex, dancing or eating- more time writing words that no one ever saw and will ever see, more time, more time, more time.  I practiced, as the saying goes, until my fingers bled.  And I read. I read so many books that I cannot go to Goodreads, where my count runs lazily in the five or six hundreds, without adding one, two, no three more books I recall that I have read.  I have read more memoirs, novels, non-fiction, essay, poetry and journal collections, newspapers and magazines than seem possible. I am a speed reader, a prolific and devoted and passionate reader, and the only time I can force myself to slow down and read at a measured pace is when the words are that good, or that important to me. 

And now I am here, at Flux Capacitor, a place I have slowly worked on, like a small and devotedly loved piece of art, since the year 2008. I have pushed myself to be a better, braver and more honest writer every time I open this white steady box with the orange POST at the top.  I have poured my most intimate terrors, joys, lessons and losses into this place, using not only my memories, but also everything I know about writing. 

And I want to get paid doing it.

I have remained silent on the issues of bloggers getting paid over the last two years, even as I read more often blog posts about the subject, readers who did not write commenting, and then articles in bigger spaces and online newspapers and magazines discussing bloggers getting paid, bloggers running ads, bloggers using sponsored posts.  My silence was simply the non response that I often- maybe too often- enact when an 'issue' that feels patently un-'issue' like to me is bandied about. We aren't talking about illness, death, life, meaning, work, sex- the meat of things. I don't like to be part of a conversation that feels purposefully inflamed for the sake of excitement. I kept writing.

However. I do not believe that this issue is going away, and in fact, some people seem completely determined to keep it an issue. Being part of this community, being a writer and a blogger and oh- a woman- who has ads, who takes sponsored posts and who is delighted to earn money off of my blog, I cannot ignore the insult.

There is the obvious sexist overtone to the entire discussion. Most bloggers- all?- that are referred to in these discussions are women. And too often and too predictably the ones insulting and rebuking women for making money blogging are other women. I suppose women tear each other down for the same predictable, boring and timeless reasons people do these things to each other- pain, self-hatred, self-doubt, ego, a cruel streak, a bad day- but it is particularly insidious to watch. I read an interview recently where a 'powerhouse' of a woman was asked about her experience specifically as a successful woman, and she responded that the hardest part was not the men along the way, but the women at the top. What we want for ourselves and our daughters is best served in supporting the same for other women.  When women come together in support of one another amazing change, growth occurs. The blogs I have read decrying 'blogging money' are often written from a martyr standpoint. Well, they sigh, if those ladies want to make a living writing, I suppose that's their choice, but I'd like you all to know I never, ever expect a penny from any of this. Just your undying admiration for my excellence and over all superiority in character. My! I do love you all, and you love me, and love is all we need in this cold, false world. Ladies. Please. This is about as adult of a conversation as ' love means never having to say your sorry ' was in Love Story. We all need a pot to pee in, and I'd like mine to flush, ie: I need the money. If I didn't, great. If I do, great.  If we are all selling something in this world, I'm selling my writing, not my pure soul. I'm sure you all are aware of that by now.

 Men are traditionally expected and encouraged to make money doing whatever comes naturally to them, what they put their energies- both mental and physical - into making money is worthwhile. Women are traditionally shamed for wanting more, for working for more, and for God's sake let's move on, for demanding more. A professional request for better working conditions or more money from a woman can still be construed and openly discussed as bitchy. A man in the same situation is simply a powerhouse. While there are bumps along the way to making money through blogging- maintaining integrity, quality of writing, crassness of a sell- they are just that- bumps- and will either be dealt with well or not- but either way they do not reflect on the validity of the choice to attempt to make money through blogging.  I have always wanted to earn a living being a writer. I openly allow that I desire to make money off of Flux Capacitor, off of writing, and to make enough money writing to quit my day job. Open desire for women to make money is obviously somehow still watercolored with shame. It's 'embarrassing'- or at least, for some, believe it should be. I'm not the slightest damn embarrassed or coy about my intentions here and it flabbergasts me to come up with a single reason I should be. 

Now sometimes bloggers switch to money makers and their blogs suffer. Their writing suffers. I myself have stopped going to a few blogs I can think of because the writers there stopped almost completely writing about their lives and thoughts and began writing about things like concert promotions and baby goods and making slideshows to infinity, and I just got bored. Sometimes bloggers switch to money makers and their blogs become consistently embarrassingly pandering. These things happen, but that is not the point of this partichlah piece here. The route that blogging as a whole is going these days is a whole other piece! One that I definitely have my own thoughts and feelings about. But right now,  I'm talking about the voices out there that are actively shaming other bloggers for trying to make money through blogging. That's it.  If my writing becomes to stressful for me because of the money aspect, or suffers, I can totally see myself just shutting that aspect down here, and trying a new tact. But right now, I'm talking about....yes, you know what I'm going to say. YOU CAN"T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Ha. Sorry. Back to business-

I have worked my ass off to be a wonderful writer, and I have spent not only countless hours but also money making Flux Capacitor a good read for anyone who comes here.  I offer not only my writing but the blood of my life. ( Blood of my blood. Game of Thrones, anyone? Mr. Curry and I are obsessed! ) Someone believes I should do this for free because it makes it cheaper to want money for it. There is nothing cheap about putting a price on a craft. If a shaman woman offers me a protective symbol for a goat, I'll either say no or give her the goat. I'm not going to tell her she has no honor because she wants my billy for her magics. I have no intention of putting my hard earned craft out into the world without expecting anything in return. If I could do that, and wanted to, bully for me! But I don't; I can't. I work full time. Then I come home, be with and care for my family, until around nine pm, when I come here, and spend the next hour to four working on Flux and other essays and poems and stories I am working on.  I do this because I love to write and connect. I do this because I want to make money. And both ways of blogging are just fine. Both are valid. Both have worth, and dignity. Money does not strip dignity. The way a person lives-  the words out of our mouths and on our pages can strip dignity.  If I offer something beautiful or something amusing or something interesting or something true- something I made and ask a fair and honest price, who here would deny me that?


I haz magics. You haz billy?

(damnit. I can't help my fucking self!!!)
(..." and here is where the writer undermines her credibility, ")

Read Sweetney's thoughts on this same subject On Privilege and Selling Out 
Read Kate Granju's thoughts on the same subject Bloggers and Money and Selling Out and All That 
Read Ryan's thoughts on a slightly different side of this subject, which I totally can totally see myself possibly doing at some point if I get too stressed Life After Stats

SJ said...

I've said before and I'll say it again -- as well as I've seen others say here in this comments field -- I feel sometimes like I'm stealing from you getting all this wonderful writing from you for free. I can't wait to buy your book someday, MM.

annton said...

thank you so much for this. all that is running through my mind about that subject, I have just found it in your post. so many discussions about this lately; about money, about blogging and even, earning money as an artist. someone called me a slut, as my art is for sale. ridiculous! as you have said:" I am working my butt of for my art." so, nothing else but getting paid for it would be right. at least for me. full stop.

Chrissy said...

There of course is nothing wrong with making money from blogging! But, I think the reluctance comes in when the VOICE changes. Say a writer you've loved for a long time suddenly writes a sponsored post that is not in her voice. And it feels icky to her readers. They have the right to feel that way.

Ads? I don't care. Great. Sponsored posts that are authentic? Okay (Rebecca Wolff has done these so elegantly).

But no one likes to have their arm twisted, even a little. I know you would keep it fucking classy, though, Maggie. Your voice would not change. No one is begrudging you the right or the means to make your way.

Think of it this way (and this is the analogy I think of often). You are watching Downton Abbey on PBS, which is a fine piece of moving media. You came there for the singular plot and rich characters. If one of those characters started talking about Diet Coke or something, or if the voice of the show changed to accommodate a new sponsor, you would be bothered.
The cast, writers, crew and producers are being paid. They are not working for free. They are being sponsored somehow. The benefactors names are shared in taste, in the beginning of the episode or after. It's the MANNER in which the sponsorship happens, and the voice of the artist, that must remain intact for me to remain a loyal reader/customer. Does that make sense? I hope so. I should be working right now.

Chrissy said...

Oh, and also (I am still avoiding the actual work on my desk), the writer/blogger that Katie G. references in her post IS paid for writing. She just doesn't use that particular platform/site for ads or sponsors, which she explains her reasons for that in detail in many of her recent posts. It's a different situation, and I feel some things were sadly taken out of context.

CitricSugar said...

If there is a sad and unexpected consequence of feminism, it is this: it has taken women out of competition with men and put them into competition with each other. For some reason, we hold each other to a higher standard than we hold men and children and vilify anything that doesn't align with our personal sensibilities, though often it makes us hypocrites in the process.

Having worked in retail and restaurants and witnessed the treatment of women in service by the women who use those services. A woman has to work twice as hard to get an average tip from a woman between 28-60 as she would if her customer is a man. Yet, the tip male servers average or better for less service, mostly i believe, because they think he's doing the best he can. Men of the same age don't appear to discriminate tip-wise. I'm generalizing, of course, but these are things that I have noticed as trends over time.

For some reason, we feel entitlement towards each other as women, like we are owed rather than owing. It is so very sad. I think it was Madeleine Albright (sp?) who said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

krista said...

girl, do people really give you nonsense about wanting to make some money? lordy.
make your money, sister.

Catherine said...

Do what you can to get paid. I wrote a few things on Kate Granju's blog about this. I say "go for it". You'll get my support, Maggie. Don't always agree with you, but will read what you write about it regardless. You are a great writer already. Now you've got to market it.

YES Gallery + Studio said...

One word: A-fucking-MEN!

liv said...

Hahahahaha, that was amazingly well put. I have been a long time reader never commenting, well, just out of shyness I suppose. I am laughing now because one of the first things I thought when I started reading your blog ages ago was..."that woman needs to make money from this, she is that good".

I don't have time to read all those links, but I'm well grounded in my own opinion. Life is a marketplace, especially in America. And if something you do allows you to earn money, then god bless it. Money is neither good nor bad, it's what we do with it that makes the difference. And I would suspect that someone who can write like you, does very good things with her pay the light bill and feed the kids, etc. -- all blessings.

You're a good woman, you do a good thing here -- kiss that money and keep writing !!

Ms. Moon said...

Hell, I see nothing at all wrong with earning money through a blog. I wish I knew how! I'd love to earn some damn money. If you can do it, DO IT!

Leslie said...

Your blog is my absolute favorite and has been ever since I was lucky enough to read Lola's birth story on Marvelous Kiddo and find you over here. You should absolutely be making money on what you're doing here and elsewhere on the internet. You put your heart and soul into it and there's nothing wrong with seeing some monetary return on that. It's what all of us writers want, right?

I started blogging on MySpace in 2006 and then switched to blogger in 2007. For a long time I struggled with blogging because to me it didn't feel like "real" writing. I was narrating my life experiences but it didn't feel legit, mainly because I wasn't focusing on the art of the language. It was your blog, among others, that showed me that blogging is a real medium, a worthwhile one, and it's what you do with the blog that matters. I actually abandoned my old blog and started a new one on wordpress because the weight of the old one got to be too much. I didn't like what I was doing there. From an objective stance, there was nothing wrong with it but to me it just didn't feel right anymore.

I'm 32 years old and have had this writing dream for as long as I've been able to have dreams and aspirations for my life. I'm just now getting to the point in my life where I've realized I've been brainwashed into thinking that I should give it up and pursue something more practical. I spent (borrowed) over $100K on my education pursuing that notion of realism and practicality, and here I am waiting tables to pay the bills while raising two very young children with my husband, and I have very little time or energy to devote to writing. Posts like this give me hope that I can do it. Your whole blog gives me hope.

Blogging seems to be the wave of the future, or at least the present. I've seen countless bloggers get book deals and they don't have your talent, not even close. Never stop writing - I believe someday you WILL be paid for it.

Caroline said...

Bravo. This is important, important stuff! I'm with you completely here. You know that. And I honestly couldn't imagine you not being paid for your work. That's such an absurd thought.

So, I think what should not be up for discussion is whether a blogger/writer/artist/crafter should want to make money for their work. What should be up for discussion? how does making money affect content? If it affects content, at some point that will affect traffic which will then affect the ability to make money. But, like you said, that's another piece entirely.

There always been this amazingly ridiculous debate with artists over going commercial. I used to see this conflict all the time with the sculptors that I worked with. Some were so afraid of "selling out" that they wouldn't accept certain jobs that were too commercial. Ironically, one of the most famous pieces of sculpture in this country "The Charging Bull" sits on Wall Street. So many people forget that this symbol of Wall Street is actually something rendered by an artist who, no doubt worked his whole life to make money. (that's another piece entirely too)

p.s. I love what Critic Sugar said. She nailed it.

anymommy said...

You have this way of cutting through the BS and making me think about issues in a new light. It's fabulously intelligent and it's only accessible through your fabulous writing.

Elizabeth said...

The only thing I worry about as far as posting ads on my blog is that there are some publishers that will consider anything on a "commercial" blog to be already "published" work, and this might prove to be a problem should I use any of my posts in the book that I'm writing. There's a certain advantage in making one's blog purely a personal one to avoid those problems. As for all the agony that you speak of and the conflict, honestly -- I can't be bothered. These "problems," to me, are in the same category as the endless, nauseating and boring conflicts recycled over and over about working vs. non-working, nursing vs. non-nursing, etc. etc.

You go, Maggie -- never stop writing and I hope you earn a gazillion dollars doing what you do best.

Petit fleur said...

Good for you Maggie.

I have worked with medicine women and men before. Their philosophies about this subject are all in alignment. They all say that if a person charges too much for their goods/services, they will suffer an imbalance, perhaps illness. If they do not charge enough, well... they suffer also for that. It's all about balance and nothing is free. There is always an exchange.

I believe them.
Go you.

MarthaGoudey said...

Well said, Maggie...and I echo the comments. There continues to be a struggle among women, especially about being paid what we are worth for our talents and services. You've paid the dues, girl. Go for it.

Tanna said...

Look. Your blog is great and you should get paid for it. But I don't know what's in the water this week that is causing all these people to quote Glennon out of context like that. Everyone is writing these defensive posts about 'Oh good for YOUUUU, you don't want to get paid, well we have to live!' First of all, that post is ages old and secondly, she in no way puts down anyone who gets paid for their blog. She simply states that for HER and what she wants to do, she wants her (hugely successful) blog and community to remain the way it is. She does make money from writing in other ways, she just didn't want to monetize her blog and gently explained why without vilifying anyone else. I was disappointed in K. Granju for taking a dig at her, and I'm disappointed in you. You talk about 'women tearing women down' but that's exactly what you're doing here.

Unknown said...

I am with you on this - there is no reason writers shouldn't get paid for writing. I am just in the unfortunate situation of starting over in blogging, and don't see it happening for me any time soon, or maybe ever. But I will be right there with you and look forward to seeing you successful with this. Your writing speaks for itself - you deserve it.

Lone Star Ma said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with making money at what you love - selling out is not that; it is when you compromise your values to make money. So, like - formula ads - selling out. Nice stuff ads - not selling out. Still, I do not really think blogs are a viable source of income for any but a handful of people. It is what used to be called 'cigarette money" (ick) for most who try it.

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