I haven’t been procrastinating on the weekly procrastination series. I’ve been busy. You see, a holiday tradition in Hollywood is that producers and studios and networks and publishers finish their to-do lists so that they can go off on their vacations and trips to the parents and Hawaiian safaris and nightly festivities. This means all of my hurry-up-and-wait comes to a screeching halt, as it’s time to Hear Notes and Write.
I debated showing a picture here of the stack of work beside me, but I wouldn’t want you to get jealous. I’m about to have a lot of late nights and airplane writing stretches. This is a good thing! This is being a writer. We work through most major events and holidays. It’s why you think we don’t appreciate you and ultimately leave us.
Let’s get to the question of the week.
First, I think it’s very cool of you to offer your writing insights to us. Not only do you answer our questions, but you really take care in doing so with thoughtful and helpful responses. In fact, I’ve emailed you a couple times over the years and you were always responsive and friendly. So, thanks!
My question(s) for you have to do with blogging. First, I always wondered why you don’t try to generate a little extra income by monetizing your blog. Second, I wanted to know your thoughts of blogging. When people ask me what kind of writing I do, I’m always like, (cough) I have a blog (cough). Like blogging isn’t legitimate writing. Except, I love to blog. Which leads me to my last question, is there any other type of “legitimate” writing you would recommend for a blogger like me to try?
First of all, thank you for the compliment. I remember you because I like the name of your website.
Okay, so why don’t I monetize my blog? Well, there are a few reasons. I don’t know how long you’ve been around here, but I did monetize my blog, way back in 2000, when I was part of a “portal” called “Chick Click” and I had a tiny banner at the top of my website. It made some people go batshit. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was eventually there was a dot com bust and Chick Click folded. For a long time after that there weren’t a lot of options for a website like mine unless I jammed it full of Amazon links. And people were saying the internet was dead and that nobody liked a blog unless it was a news ticker site.
My site’s kind of like that corner market that sells weird foods where you’re like, “Oh, my god, that store is still around? It’s been thirteen years! WHO SHOPS THERE?”
These days lots of people make money off their websites, and while I have been tempted and even had a conversation or two about it, part of why I haven’t aggressively pursued it is that I’m not really a blogger, not in the way a blogger is perceived today. I don’t update every single day, I don’t curate links or offer helpful tips. Aside from the yearly charity and this new advice column, I’m not usually offering a service. This is my side site used for promotion, publicity, silliness, and a connection with my readers that might just be my abandonment issues presented in binary code. Most importantly, because I have this giant stack next to me of things that are due to people who are paying me money to do them, I don’t always have time to come to this site to write. I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t updating enough to merit the hustle it takes to successfully run ads.
This leads to the second part of your question. You identify yourself as a blogger, but then you’re embarrassed by it. That’s so unnecessary. This new generation of blogs and women who blog are powerful and amazing and take their sites and turn them into businesses. Brands. Money-making machines. Why would you be embarrassed to be a part of that? I don’t know how to give advice on how to market/improve your blog in this current climate so that you can start to make income through it, but maybe people will give you some help in the comments.
Back in 1999, when I decided I wanted pamie.com to make money so that I could transition to writing freelance full-time, I made a plan. I went to sites that were running ads with a similar tone, with a similar sensibility, and I paid attention to what they were doing. I went to SXSW Interactive and networked with the intention of turning my site into something that could be bigger than the online journal I had created. I started a forum, I got focused on what I was writing about, I made sure I was searchable and my site was listed near other sites like mine. (There were things called Web Rings back then. Don’t worry about it.) Not exactly like mine. That’s important. Make sure you’re using your own voice and don’t try to fit into what you think someone wants you to say or sound like. Nobody needs you to be somebody else. The best thing about your website is it’s the one place where you get to be exactly who you are… if that’s what you choose to do with it.
So maybe go to sites like BlogHer or conferences like SXSW Interactive and find out what you think is “legitimate” writing. Submit yourself to essay-friendly sites like Hello Giggles to build your audience. Talk with other writers, meet other people who tell stories on the internet, and find out where you fit in. I found my “people” through Television Without Pity, and it opened doors that eventually resulted in me finding an agent. But my goal wasn’t to write my website full-time. It’s part of the reason I shut it down temporarily in 2001. I couldn’t afford the bandwidth fees without Chick Click’s monetary support, I didn’t want to move into a subscription model, and I was spending so many hours in a day moderating forums and updating my site I never had time to write the novels and spec scripts I wanted to write. Not because I felt one was more “legitimate” than the other. But because I’m happier writing dialogue in a script. During the time I was writing pamie.com for money, I was also a weekly columnist for the Statesman, a recapper for Television Without Pity, writing the Americanized dub scripts for an anime company, working on a book proposal and entering my screenplays and teleplays into competitions. Would you say that one of those things was more legitimate than the other? I couldn’t. But back then I needed pamie.com to pay the majority of the bills because the other stuff didn’t pay much, if at all. I was a blogger out of necessity. (Actually, I was a web diarist. We didn’t have the word “blog” yet.) If I’d bailed on any of that because I was embarrassed, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am. I wouldn’t have the skills I have and the experience I have. It doesn’t always come up, but sometimes my background in anime really helps in a room (especially when you’re rocking a magical vulva of opportunity).
Don’t shit on what you’re doing while you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do. Especially when you enjoy it. Because here’s the secret I wish someone had told me back when I would get apologetic for being a “web diarist” or an “online journaller” or a “crazy person who writes about herself on the internet”: when you’re really liking what you’re writing, and you’re having fun doing it? That’s probably because you’ve found your voice. You’ve found your connection with the words and the stories. There’s an audience out there hungry for someone who knows how to use her voice. Don’t stifle it because you think you’re supposed to be… what? Franzen? I don’t even know. Dooce? That blogger started just like the rest of us did a million web years ago with an internet connection and some html knowledge. But Dooce found her voice early on and she connected with people and even when it was scary and hard and people hated her, she kept going.
It’s not like The Fug Girls woke up one day and were like, “I know! Let’s make a ridiculously popular website today!” They started with a passion and it grew to something bigger than most people allow themselves to dream. Because they were brave. And they were smart. And they stuck to their voices.
Oh, my god, I just went to your about page and saw that Dooce is one of your inspirations! And that she inspired you at a conference! You’re already doing it! Why am I yelling at you? I am internet-shaking you! I’m sorry! I can’t seem to stop! I think I need to take a walk or something!
The next time you write to me, I hope it’s because you are really proud of what you are doing. And if someone made you feel like your blog wasn’t legit? I hope one day that person is on the ground with apologies. It’s your website. Everybody else can STEP OFF.
I AM ON MY BLOGGER SOAPBOX! Writers! Stop making yourselves sound like you’re not writing! It’s hard enough as it is without you shitting all over yourself! Just write, God, stop trying to find excuses not to write!
Was this answer “thoughtful and friendly” too? I feel I might have gotten a little pissy. It’s because I hate it when people apologize for doing what they love to do. Unless your thing is touching kids or puking on strangers or putting your ferret in a sweater. I have my limits.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to all this “legitimate” writing, all of which will only keep happening if I keep updating this site so that people keep reading pamie.com and think, “I should buy one of her books, because this site is free and nobody buys books and Christmas is coming.”
(Yeah, I said it. I don’t have ads. I have books. And I’ll only get to keep doing that if people buy them.)