A few months ago a friend asked me if I make money with my blog, and if so, how. They followed it up with the statement that they “can’t imagine” that I don’t.
That’s hilarious! Because I surely do not!
I have been writing online and off, for most of my life. I have never been paid to write anything. I might be given a gift or a freebie for something I have written, after the fact. I might be supplied with products that I did not have to pay for, in order to write reviews about them. These things happen occasionally, and I’m generally not one to turn down free stuff! I also feel compelled to mention that almost 100% of the time, these are places I have already purchased items –perfumes, tee shirts, candles, soaps, whatever–from, previously. I would certainly never write about stuff that I would not actually use my own money to buy. But back to the “getting paid” part– I cannot think of one single time when one single person* has paid me one single, solitary penny for something I have written or to write something for them.
…and if I am being honest, I wouldn’t want them to.
I am coming from a place where I feel like when I start accepting money for something I enjoy doing, that’s going to create expectations and obligations and it’s going to cast a grim pall over the very thing I enjoy. And I very loosely use the word “enjoy” here. I do not really take pleasure in writing. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes downright agonizing for a number of reasons. One, I’d really prefer to be doing anything but writing. Sure, I’d rather do the fun things I love, like knit, or read, or watch a movie– but sometimes I am avoiding the writing process so intensely that I will manufacture chores and tasks and errands which don’t even need doing, let alone doing now, instead of writing whatever it is that I am supposed to be writing, Also, it’s a mortifying, humiliating process. There’s nothing like seeing the nebulous thoughts and ideas and emotions that have been percolating murkily in your brain, exposed to the light and pinned down to the page or the screen in front of you…and then realizing that those unwieldy, imprecise words don’t match up with anything you thought you were thinking, and don’t even begin to convey any of the rich nuances of your, you know, really important opinions. And then of course you compare yourself to others, and you say cruel things to yourself, and it’s just this entire process of dashed expectations and self-loathing, and it’s all rather fraught, and dammit, you knew you should have been scrubbing that toilet, why did you even sit down to write in the first place? So I guess, if I were being honest, I would probably rather be doing anything but writing.
Which is funny…because I simply cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As a child I often wrote stories about a girl my age named Jenny. She didn’t have adventures, she didn’t get into scrapes. She woke up for school in the morning, she played with her dolls (these stories had …just bizarrely elaborate lists detailing Jenny’s Barbie doll collection), she planned parties; Jenny was incredibly dopey and boring, but hey, those were the things that interested me at the time. As I grew older, I would write many unfinished horror stories in the style of Stephen King, and in my late teens and early twenties, I fancied myself a bit of a poet. In between those years there were always journals and diaries and letters and notes passed back and forth in high school, and let me tell you, my notes were epic. God help the poor boy who had to respond to one of those.
Though I haven’t been blogging at Unquiet Things for a long time, I have been weblogging for a long time. Maybe not as long as some, granted. It took me a long time to be OK with, and not freaked out by, computers and the internet. It wasn’t until a job I had while I was in college that I began to get comfortable with typing my thoughts as opposed to scribbling, which was pretty great timing, because this was in the latter half of 1999 and Livejournal had been founded earlier that year. Also in attempting to pinpoint a date just now, I am looking back and realizing that I graduated high school in 1994, and four years later, in 1999, I was still in community college. Full disclosure: it would be another three years before I actually graduated with my two-year degree. Yep.
Livejournal took my obsession with journaling to a new and interesting level. I never diaried my thoughts hoping to keep them private–I actively wanted people to read them. Sadly, no one actually wanted to, or cared about my not-so-carefully concealed notebooks. And why should they? It was, at its basic level, just highly legible but profoundly mundane personal drivel and daily gripes that were interesting only to me. But now, people all over the world were going to read my dumb thoughts and opinions–and they did! And they commented on them! It was everything I ever wanted.
My interest in fiddling with the LJ code to customize and tart up the look of my page led to me learning some html–nothing fancy, just enough recognize the basics and be able to tweak things if needed, which was especially useful when website design software like Dreamweaver became available to me. So now I could build my own website and blog! And I did! I even called myself myself an amateur web designer and I built a website for that purpose, too (and believe it or not, I made some money doing it, but that is a super weird story for another time.)
My blog has gone through many iterations over the years, beginning as a small purple thing on geocities, which few but a certain gormless ex-boyfriend may remember, as I had built a little [name redacted] insult generator on one of the pages as a spiteful side activity. And over the years it’s had many names…I was akissofshadows (Anita Blake shoutout!) on LJ, along with myblogskip, and then several other Lovecraftian or MRJamesian names that I’d cycle through in order to escape detection by another ex, this one must nastier and more awful than the previous, and who monitored my online activities like a hawk, because was a a snoopy asshole. And no, that’s not even fair to the snoopies out there, it was more than that; he had no sense of boundaries or privacy and thought he was entitled to every piece of me. Nosiness is one thing. His abusive behavior was something else.Yeah, I’m still mad about that. Never not gonna hate that guy.
Anyway! I digress! The point is, I have had a lot of journals and blogs over the years. But I never started writing with the idea that I think a lot of bloggers have now , a sort of “I’m going to make a living off of this! Where my sponsors at??” type of mentality. Hey, if that describes you, great. Good luck to you, and I wish you much success. But that was never me. I don’t write for money, I don’t have sponsors, I don’t have ads on my sites, I don’t even have a “donate” button, for pete’s sake. Never have, never will.
I have never struggled with my site’s image or branding. I know many bloggers who have started their site focusing on one type of thing, and perhaps they’ve built their whole personal brand or whatever around it. But then they become burnt out, or their interests change, and then they experience a great deal of angst and teeth-gnashing when it comes to blogging about something different or shifting their focus, and subsequently feeling the need to change the whole look and feel of their blog/website and online presence. I have never experienced this. I write about the things that I think are weird, or sad, or funny, or beautiful. That’s basically all it is, and it encompasses a broad spectrum of things–I will never be at a loss of food for thought and the resultant blog fodder. And even if, let’s say, I made a big change, like a super major change, say, oh, I don’t know–maybe I wanted to start writing about Christian parenting and scrapbooking. So what? What’s to agonize over? This is my space on the internet, no one is paying me or expecting things from me, so I can write about whatever shit that takes my fancy!
And that’s another thing. Sometimes I will see bloggers post things like “what do you guys want to see more of on the blog this year?” Fuck that shit. I don’t really care what anyone wants to see. They’ll see what I write about, that’s what they’ll see. And I know that sounds a little harsh, and I don’t mean to sound unkind or like I don’t appreciate all of the folks who have tuned in over the years (I love all 5 of you!) but I think that if you have followed my writing for any amount of time, whether we are real life friends, or if you know me from LJ or tumblr or polyvore or from my time writing at Coilhouse or more currently at Haute Macabre–I think you understand where I am coming from, and have a basic idea of what I’m about. And you probably don’t care! So if I don’t care and the people who count don’t care, then I’m not particularly worried. Everyone else can either get with the program or peep on over at another blog! The internet is pretty great like that.
So, no. I don’t make any money here. I don’t actually make any money writing anywhere else, either, and I never have. Ever. And that’s OK! I have a full time job. I don’t love it, I don’t even particularly like it, but I’ve never been under any illusions about the the need to like what I do for a living. That’s crazy talk. Work is dumb, don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise. I work to make the money to be able to do the things I really want to do. Which brings me back to a point I was initially making, which was this: I do not necessarily want to get paid to write. I reserve the right to change my mind about this one day, but when someone says they want to pay you to do something**, they will of course have certain expectations of you and your work product. And then you feel obligated to meet those expectations. Do I want to feel obligated to work on something I am doing in my spare time, in my not-work time, in my obligation-less time? Fuck no. FUCK NO.
So this is my ridiculously lengthy answer to what might appear at the outset to be a very simple question. Anonymous friend who initially asked this question, I hope that you do not take this response as a personal attack or perhaps me passive-aggressively fuming about an innocent question that you had asked two months ago. It’s not like that at all! And, I promise, you’re not the only one who has asked this***. You were just the one who inspired me to type out this massive dump of rambling thoughts about it. I bet you’re sorry you asked, though!
*I do use Amazon associate links from time to time in my blog posts; every once in a while Amazon will send me a $5 gift card. Does that count? I don’t really think it counts.)
**Although if someone wants to pay me for something I have already written, that’s cool.
*** Who does she think she is, even writing this response, you might be wondering. No one even cares, no one thinks you SHOULD be paid to write anything! You may be right to think so. You probably are. I’m the little person, a nobody. Just one among millions of mediocre bloggers. I am not pretending otherwise. But more than one person has asked me this question, I swear. Maybe even three or four! But probably less than ten.