Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's in a name? Not much, really... Thoughts on online writing and writers...

This is one of those "insider" posts that probably won't matter much to you if you stopped by looking for a content writer or copywriter. If you are part of the industry, however, it might matter to you...

Well, the seeds for this post started at a writers' forum I frequent. There was an ongoing discussion about paid forum posting and whether it was a worthwhile means of making some cash. That coversation also dredged up some thoughts about whether those who make money posting at forums, using Blogitive and Payperpost, etc. should call themselves "writers."

That wasn't the first time the topic has been raised in that particular context or in others. My position on the matter is best summarized by none other than Wm. Shakespeare who had Juliet utter the immortal words, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."

To put it bluntly and in less Shaekespearean terms, I don't give a damn who picks up the mantle of writer. It has zero impact on me or my career as a writer. My two-year-old can make a fine "X" on a piece of paper. If she wants to claimt aht makes her a writer, so be it. Titles don't interest me much.

However, that doesn't mean I think that everything one can do with a keyboard is an awesome idea. Take paid forum posting, for example. It's a foolish way to make money unless you have some strange love of forum participation. The per post payout is next to nothing. The time involved in constructing the actual posts is minimal, but the amount of time it takes between posts, navigating the sites, etc. makes it a loser in terms of actual income.

I think paid forum posting is an ill-conceived thing to do if your goal is to make money. That doesn't mean that a paid forum poster can't call himself or herself a writer (or The High Emperor of Monkeyworld, for that matter), but it does mean I can chastise what I perceive as being a foolish decision.

One commenter has remarked that those who are dismissive of paid posters, etc. shouldn't judge them. After all, they might really NEED the money. I think that is a perfectly valid point on one level, but on another I disagree wholeheartedly. You see, if they NEED money they should be doing it by some other, more productive means. The math just doesn't work with forum posting. It's silly, particulary in light of the fact that I know many of those who have followed that route have skill sets that would enable them to make more money in a more efficient manner.

Wait! Aha! I have often said that I will work as a writer in lower paying markets and have been dismissive of those who claim writers shouldn't work for less. Have I not just stepped into a massive pile of steaming hypocrisy? No, I don't think so.

That's because my defense of lower-paying markets has always been premised on the idea that one should operate within them only if and when they can do so profitably. If a writer has the requisite skill set to make those markets pay, full steam ahead. If not, stay away. We can get into the nuts and bolts of making that determination some other time, but understand that I wouldn't advocate working at $.025/word across the board. There are times, however, when it might make sense for some writers and some projects.

Anway, this paid forum posting conversation led one member of the particular forum in question to take a hike. Well, I don't think it was that particular conversation, but that thread was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Deb bailed out on the forum, noting that the interests and objectives of many participants were not necessarily in line with her own. Put simply, she's tired of settling for less. That's my summary. you can go straight to her explanation, if you'd prefer.

I don't think that's a bad thing. In fact, I tend to agree (even though the two of us might disagree about the best way to reach particular goals). To me, Deb's remarks aren't an insult to those who aren't as gung-ho. They are a challenge to anyone with objectives to take them seriously and to take appropriate efforts to reach them instead of spinning one's wheels.

All of this stuff made me think about something Ann King wrote. She observed that there seemed to be a little stinginess on the part of many more established online writers in sharing quality information and tips with newer entrants into the field. At first, I was a little dismissive of that idea. Now, however, I think she has a point.

Perhaps the reason people do spend time posting to forums for a few nickels here and there stems from a lack of quality information from those who have been around the block.

Not everyone shares the same goals, just as not everyone works within the same markets. Thus, one shouldn't be too quick to judge. I want to make $125K within a year. You might want to make an extra $50 per month to pay down a Visa card or to save for holiday gifts. To each his/her own. However, that kind of "big tent" mentality does become counterproductive when it leads people to pat backs and offer support for ill-conceived pursuits.

If you want to call yourself a writer, feel free to do so. If you want to call yourself a writer and advocate silly plans, feel free to do so. I will support your right to do both, but won't play along and maintain that all of those strategies are good ideas.

There are many different ways to make this thing called writing work. There are just as many ways to go about it with frustration or disappointment being the most likely byproducts. The smart thing to do is to find a way that suits you, your skills, and your goals.

I could continue rambling, but I have to get back to work.