No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.
– Samuel Johnson
Dr. Johnson might scoff at this blog and the innumerable other blogs where writers write for the sheer joy of doing so. Not getting paid for writing is one reason people have told me not to do this blog. “Send those stories to magazines and make money off of them.” Reasonable advice, of course, but harkening back to Monday’s Pen to Paper, the traditional publishing options are fading away in the face of the digital revolution.
As I noted in a comment on Monday’s article, people who make a living writing hate those of us doing it for free. This, too, is a valid concern. For-profit publishers can make their dimes much easier getting content from what we might call funlance writers. It does, in many senses, devalue the work of the fellow who wants to write for a paycheck. I’ve faced this as an editor: “My computer has spell check and grammar check. What do I need an editor for?” And thus it is that people who have spent their lives in search of the perfect word begin to lose out.
Another relevant concern is losing control of one’s work. Once it’s online, nothing keeps bots or people from scraping it and using it for their own purposes. That’s true of hardcopy, of course, but it’s so much easier now to take other people’s work and there’s so much more of it to take.
Jane Friedman wrote an article at Writer Unboxed saying stop being afraid of posting your work online. I find her arguments persuasive (even though I’d already been doing this for two years before she wrote her article). Further, as I look for dead tree publication possibilities for my work, I’m finding that publishing a story to your own blog is becoming less of an impediment to magazine or journal sales; the print world is coming around on this.
The comments at the end of Friedman’s article are also well worth reading. There’s a lot of thoughtful “me, too” to be found, but there’s also an interesting give and take with a Writer’s Digest colleague of hers who gives diametrically opposing advice.
When I started posting my writing here, the clinching point for me was this quote from Tim O’Reilly: “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” In this sense, being plagiarized means someone is reading you, a truly dubious compliment. But it makes sense for me to be read, for people to discover a body of my work so that I other (read: paying) opportunities might come along later. And even if they don’t, my blog lets me “sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” in ways previous generations of writers could scarcely dream of. The sheer newness of it is excitement enough.