During one of these “not so beach weather” days, my family and I took a drive up to Provincetown to poke around. It’s a favorite spot of mine, where you’ll find generations of Portuguese fishermen and historical homes along side contemporary restaurants and galleries. A place where you will find couples walking hand in hand down the street, in open adoration of one another, whether they be grandparents in fanny packs or gay men in assless chaps. Open, welcoming, cool stores, cute New England charm and the perfect solution for an otherwise dreary day.
Provincetown is also home to my favorite book store of all time. A far cry from Barnes and Nobles or Amazon.com, Tim’s Used Books is a little gem. A home converted into a bookstore, it is nestled off the main road, awaiting avid readers of every persuasion. I was thrilled to get a chance to visit once again. I put in my request for a quick 15 minute respite of “me time” and my dear husband took the kids to go look at boats.
I stepped through the doorway and was in my glory. As I wandered around, stacks upon stacks upon shelves upon shelves of books greeted me. There were hand written labels here and there on shelves declaring some level of organization. But really, it’s a place to wander quietly, shuffle about lost in your thoughts and find that wonderful book you’ve always wanted, gently used and reasonably price. I found two. While not book titles I had always wanted, they were of interest. Both “self help” books of sorts to help myself with two loves of mine: raising boys and writing. I knew very little about either title but they might be something to curl up with if the rain refused to cease but, miraculously, my children’s wrestling did.
When I was ready to pay for my treasures, I found a woman reading next to a very old register at the front of the store.
“Oh, you’re interested in non-fiction writing.”
Shyly (I felt a bit outed) I replied “…Um, yeah, I guess.”
“Well, the key is to use a lot of description. That’s really all it is.”
(Sidebar: Use a lot of description? Uh-huh. And if that’s what I have done so far in this post, I hardly consider this a successful tact in a blog. All this chatter about P-Town and you all don’t even know what my point IS yet, do you? My guess is that she soooo doesn’t know very much about blogging, now does she?)
And then, oh so confident, the woman at the till exclaimed that she was, in fact, a writer. And then, while she hand wrote the titles of my books in a log next to her, she read the various names of the non-fiction writers I would be reading about outloud – some of whom had been in that very store.
“Oh, well. I am kind of new to this writing thing anyway. I am actually blogging now so… I am just trying to get better… um… you know…. express myself…”
She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me.
“Oh. Blogging. Well, I don’t write for free.”
And with that, this smug bookstore keeper – oh I’m sorry – this smug writer, sent my post-BlogHer brain into a spin of questions.
Is writing for free really such a bad thing? Is there a point to blogging for free? What IS this blogging thing for? Why do I spend so much time doing this anyway? And is blogging considered a legitimate form of writing? Is it respected out there amongst “real” writers?
After all the time and energy I have focused over the past few months on blogging, where the hell am I going with this?
Now, not every blogger writes for free. During the conference, there was a great deal of discussion about how to make money from blogging. Whether that be advertisements, blogging for specific companies or snagging an elusive book deal, all of my fellow conference attendees seemed to be scrambling to learn how to grab their piece of the pie.
(Forgive me, another sidebar: I have a theory. While I went to Blogher on someone else’s dime – again thank you wonderful BlogHer women – I know my fellow conference attendees got a fair amount of crap for going to this conference. I heard time and again how loved ones asked fellow bloggers why they were spending money to attend a conference about something you do for free. So my guess is that most of the women there, while adoring their blog, felt some sense of responsibility to learn how to earn a buck while doing so and then tell their significant others that’s why they attended this conference in the first place. Shoot, I was at those sessions too, I get it.)
Regardless, even as I sat in those sessions, I know I ultimately struggled with the whole focus on blogging for money. And after reading Slouching Mom’s recent post, I am obviously no the only one. I worry what happens to the integrity of the blog once the author starts writing for money. Does it stop being a love and start being more of a grind?
…I gotta get more advertisers, I gotta get my readership up, I gotta write something everyone will like, I gotta write everyday…
If it’s that much work, it’s just not fun anymore, is it?
But let me be clear. If I could blog and be paid enough for one trip to the grocery store or one trip to fill up my Saturn or make enough to pay one monthly electric bill… cha-ching. What a glorious thing even that little bit would be. And if a fellow blogger manages to make more than that? Well, you go, more power to you. If I could be so lucky. As long as the heart of that blog remains and the money is just a nice benefit on the side, be the blogging business you wanna be.
But still, I find myself back at my starting point. Blogging for a tank of gas is hardly a job. And it’s hardly justification for the hours I spend writing, editing, thinking and hunched over my computer.
And to underscore my point, do you know how long this post has taken me to write? I have two children. I am in charge of them. THAT is my job. Blogging away hours of my day is NOT my job.
So where am I going with this? While I used to write some copy for my previous real-life job (many moons ago before kids), I have never been officially paid as a true freelance writer. Apart from my undergraduate liberal arts degree (in Neuroscience and behavior – super helpful in real life, no?) I don’t have any degrees or official documents stating that I can write. And I wouldn’t know where to begin to start as an official writer. All I got is my new used book about how to write and this little self serving blog. Where I write. FOR FREE.
I guess I am just having a bad blogging day.
I guess I have had to explain where I was last weekend a little too often.
“What kind of conference was that?” “What exactly IS blogging?” “Where do you even find time to do something like that?” “Don’t you worry about sexual predators stalking you and your family on the internet?”
As a quick reminder to myself, I know there are so many reasons why I blog which do justify all the time and effort I have invested here. There is no price tag on sanity, right? Blogging has given a little bit of that back to me. You all have heard it before, it has released me from the circular mommy groundhog day that I was living in. It is an extremely satisfying creative outlet indeed. So yay me. I should keep doing it. And I will keep doing it. And all the planets, and stars and signs are telling me I MUST do it.
But I think it’s ok to question it. And truly determine why it is that we do blog before we are peppered with questions about it, before we sign on for advertisements, and before we run into smug shopkeepers that don’t quite get it. Like some sort of blogger’s mission statement, we should all carve out, own and proudly display our reasons to blog.
Cripes, I think I might even write a mission statement. Anyone else interested in doing so? If you are, post it below. I need a little inspiration today.
And in my next post – which may not be fore a few days now – I hope to recapture the energy and excitement of BlogHer 08 and link (which is blogger lingo for “introduce”) you to some really amazing women I happened to meet. I need to remember and just get PSYCHED again, dammit.
Because we should not have to apologize for blogging. Even if it’s for free. Blogging regularly makes us better writers. Blogging for nothing means we truly love to write. Blogging is taking the first ammendment to heart. Blogging should never be exploited or biased. Blogging doesn’t have editors hasseling you over your every word. Blogging shoots straight from the hip and is as honest as anything you will ever find. Blogging is something to be respected – not snubbed.
Well, enough from me today. It is 4:30 in the afternoon, we leave tomorrow and the sun has finally come out. Can you believe this? Time to actually go find the bathing suits and untangle my wrestling boys on the floor next to me.
My parting words? Blog it, mean it, love it and then leave it. Now finally, off to the beach.