Today’s Chicago Tribune held an interesting article about a fellow blogger – imagine that! Dawn Meehan is a mother of six and the proud author of Because I Said So. According to the article, Ms. Meehan started her blog two years ago after her mother gave her a list of ideas for making extra money – one of them being blogging. It started innocently enough, posting fun and humorous stories to go along with items she was selling on eBay and flourished into a well loved blog which shows the humor in a profession that largely gets overlooked; motherhood.
Today Ms. Meehan is being sought by numerous literary agents in hopes of a book and a major network wants her to pen a series based on her posts. How’s that for an amazing turn in career? All of this from a woman who had a natural talent for writing and was looking for a little extra income to help raise her family but, what I noticed more than anything in this story is that the blog itself is fun and humorous and it was that voice and love of subject matter that captured an audience’s attention.
Over my two years dabbling with blogs and meeting people online I’ve run into quite a few useful ideas on how to build a writing career. Often the goal is less lofty than the one I’d envisioned when I set about learning the craft of writing. For a while there I got caught up on the idea of making a full time income freelancing, and I did make a good deal of headway; going from nothing to $1,000.00 a month in a matter of weeks really. When I stopped actively pursuing clients it was largely because I hated the writing. Yes, you can find clients online. Yes, you can build clips and go from there... but I hated the SEO articles and copy that was largely spam. I hated the fact that there was more emphasis on keywords than content and I hated the fact that many clients expected to pay a pittance for my time and talent.... More than that, though, it bothered me that so many of these clients were assigning articles and e-books that are surely marketed as reliable expert sources to people whose credentials for the information are no where near reliable.
In my time freelancing I both wrote and edited a number of things that I had no previous expertise in and I was never given any research or information on those things. I would do the research myself and, while I feel that my abilities to write accurately on most subjects is far above par, I had a problem with the fact that I was handing over this copy to someone who would market it as expert advice on medical conditions – after all, I had no control over whether or not it was checked by a doctor or even if it was edited well.
I know a number of freelance writers who make a bulk of their living from this work and are very happy with it – and I think that’s wonderful for them. For me, though, that kind of writing became a drudgery that was worse than working at some counter or office might be. My down time wasn’t spent working on my fiction because the freelancing took the urgency from my writing. And seeing a story like that of Dawn Meehan reinforces my reasoning for retiring from the web content race.... while I can make a living from freelancing anonymously, I’ll never meet with the success I aspire to by my words. There is a need to pay the bills, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll take the delayed payment because I would rather give my best shot to the fiction than short change myself by making the one thing I love to do best become a chore.
Do I think this path of writing what I love will lead to the physical success of Ms. Meehan? I’m not counting on it, though I think it’s fantastic for her. But success for me isn’t nearly so hard to reach – a novel I’m proud of that really speaks to the reader and a career writing what I love, even if it means a real job to pay the bills while I do it... For me, success isn’t in the paycheck (though I wouldn’t turn one down). Success can’t be measured by my bank balance... and, frankly, the kind of writing that pays today wouldn’t make me well paid because I’m just not that kind of a writer.
There are a lot of writers that make a good living off of fast writing and multiple articles who can tell you that they’ll finish ungodly amounts in word count a day. I can’t do it, my writing suffers under those conditions and it makes me unhappy.
How about you guys? Do you write from the heart or strictly for a check? Do you like what you do or has it become just a job? Did the dream of being a writer equal the reality of writing? No judgment here – there’s room for every type of writer and my hat’s off to anyone whose found their niche in the writing world when it makes them happy.