Is there anybody out there?

31 10 2008

No money. I don’t want this to be about money. If it’s about money then it’s about money, and not about life or philosophy or lifting yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven. Readers, yes; money, no.

I am not opposed to making money; in fact, I’d like to make more of it. It’s handy to have, especially when you want something like your own apartment or Doc Martens or a plane ticket to somewhere else. But as useful as money is, that’s all that it is, and I don’t want to have to think about it beyond its utility. In other words, enough to live a stable lower-mid-middle class life is enough for me, and enough for me not to think about it.

So when Jtt. at Job2 asked if I were trying to make money off my blog, I might have (accidentally) spit on her in my emphatic denuciations of monetization. No no no no no no no! If I try to make money off of blogging, I told her, then that’s what I’ll be thinking about, worrying about. I’ll become a saleswoman, with just another product to hustle.

Okay, she said (backing her chair away from me a little), I get it. But what about your novels? Don’t you want to make money from those?


‘Splain, please. I don’t write novels to make money, but once it’s written, once it’s done, I’d like to get it into the hands of readers. There are a couple of ways of doing that, including self-publishing, publishing it bit by bit online, or doing the whole agent-publishing house route. It’s the last option which is most likely to lead to a paycheck, as well as readers. I’d take readers without the paycheck, but if I could have both, then why not?

Still, how is monetizing (awful, awful word!) a novel different from monetizing a blog? Hm. I sense that it is, but haven’t bothered to shape that sense into thought. So, on the fly, here goes:

1. The novel is done; the blog is ongoing. When I’m novel-writing, I’m thinking only of the novel, of the characters, the plot, does this make sense, is that awkward, etc. I’m writing and editing and thinking about writing and editing, and that’s it. Once it’s done, then I might think, Oh, here’s who might like this. In other words, the pitch for the work is separate from the work itself. And, if I’d actually get off my ass and find an agent, then I wouldn’t have to worry much about the pitch at all—she would. Yes, I know that writers today are expected to help promote their own work, fine. But if/when I get published, I’ll simply be stuck into the maw of someone else’s machine and told what to do, i.e., I wouldn’t have to think much about it.

I know this sounds nuts, but it makes a kind of sense to me. The writing and the dancing-monkey functions are sufficiently separate that the latter won’t ruin the former.

Blogging, however, doesn’t have an conclusive end, and as such, couldn’t be temporally segregated from pitch. Sure, it’s possible that one could keep the two functions separate, but I don’t know that I could.

2. Novel writing requires a discipline that blogging does not. It’s work that I recognize as work, whereas blogging is, for me, an outlet rather than a discipline. Yes, I try to write at least every other day, and I (try to) take care in blogging, but, compared to the attentiveness I bring to story- or essay-writing, I’m pretty much just tossing out the words and hitting ‘publish’.

I like that I can do that. There are times when I wish I had spent more time on a thought before sending it into Cyberland, but given the kind of conversation I am trying to have with this blog’s readers (and occasional commenters), less rather than more editing seems appropriate. I am looser with words in conversation than I am in blogging, and looser in blogging than I am in writing. It’s an in-between space, and I’d like to linger here, to poke around and see what surfaces.

I don’t want to lose the linger. Were I to try to make money off of this, I fear my looseness would degrade into sloppiness, and I’d become so focussed on hits that I wouldn’t be able to see much else.

(This is already an issue for me. I want that conversation—I want readers—but I don’t want to write solely or primarily to increase my readership. I want it just to happen. And it probably won’t. You see the problem.)

3. I am full of shit. To wit: I have written for newspapers, written for money, and hold it against academic journals that they don’t pay contributors to those journals. Writing is work, goddammit, and if you want access to my work, you can pay for it. I cut out a clip from a Village Voice review awhile ago, of an author (whose name I stupidly did not include in the cutting) whose motto was ‘Fuck you, pay me’.  Yeah. Yeah!

The pinko, the writer, and the blogger in me exist in some tension, which leads to incoherent posts such as this one. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I am in no immediate danger of selling out to The Man.

Still, I think that this blather helps to clarify what might really be my problem with monetization: the pitch. I do not want to have to think about selling myself. At all. So if someone were to say Hey, blog or write for me, and I’ll take care of the pitching, I might go for it. Someone else can be the salesperson, and I can be the writer or blogger.

Not that simple, I know, not least because that someone else is going to want a product which s/he can sell. Hell, newspapers have long had to deal with the relationship between the editorial and advertising sides (does the advertising exist to support the content or does the content exist to carry the advertising), and the editorial side does not always win. And editors who shrug off advertising concerns may still assign stories based on presumed reader interest rather than the public interest.

So nothing’s pure. I know, and mostly like, that. But I’d still like to keep some parts of my life free, and allow my mind a chance to wander.