January 31, 2013

Why Write?

I wrote on another site about the idea of devoting 20% of your time to something outside you regular "work.". It's a philosophy followed at Google and other companies. It could be a workplace habit, but it could also be something to follow in your non-working life.

My 20% seems to be writing, whether that is poetry, journaling, research or essays online and in print. If I devoted a fifth of my free time to one writing task - like a poetry manuscript - I might be a more successful writer. But, like most of my distracted life, I split that percentage into writing different things in different places.

There are five blogs that I write on regularly, including this one, and three others that I contribute posts to occasionally. I don't get paid to do that writing. But I wouldn't say that I do it for "fun" either.  Plus, I do the regular Poets Online website which archives all of the prompts and poems that have been submitted since 1998. It's hard to explain to most people (especially to my wife) exactly why I do it.

I was reading another blogger, Maria Popover, who writes the Brainpickings.org blog. She has a "writing tip jar" on her site which says that "Brain Pickings remains ad-free and takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit, between the site, the email newsletter, and Twitter. If you find any joy and value in it, please consider becoming a Member and supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a fancy dinner."

That is like the public television and radio model. You listen, so you should pay something. Luckily, enough do pay, but the paying listeners are a small percentage of the listeners.

money bagMost bloggers don't have a pay model or a contributor model using PayPal or some other subscription. Some blogs have ads. I do that. Amazon ads are one of the most popular vendors. I will put those links here for books I am discussing. But from all five of my blogs, I am surprised when in a three-month quarter they generate enough sales to have Amazon make a minimal payment which is only $10. So, I'm not getting rich by writing online.

I had always hoped that the ads would cover the cost of some domain names and hosting that I pay every year. You pay to own a domain name like poetsonline.org. Some sites, like this one on Blogger, are hosted for free. Others require a yearly fee.

There are people who blog and make a living at it. There are people who are poets and make a living at it. But not many. Every poet I know does something besides write and publish poetry to earn a living. Teaching is the most common job, whether it is in a school or in workshops.

So, why do we write our blogs and poems? I haven't come up with a definitive answer, but I have some ideas for myself.

I do hope it gets my name out there as a writer and that it leads to further opportunities and maybe some income. So, it is advertising for myself.

I like telling people things that I think will be helpful. I have been a teacher since 1975. It paid the bills, but teachers know that part of the reward is knowing that you are doing something good for your students and, in some small way, for the world.

I also like the occasional connections that come from writing online. That means anything from the person who "favorites" a post, makes a positive comment, emails a note, links to your writing. I have even had a few people find me online and ask me to do a workshop or give a presentation at a conference.

But all that perhaps isn't enough to "justify" the time spent doing this.

What are the other things that keeps us doing that 20% that we don't get paid to do? Whether it is poetry or volunteer work, why do you do it?  Comment?


Violet N. said...

This post needs a 'like' button! And I thought I was the only one crazy enough to post on multiple blogs without pay. I suppose we do it just because we can!

Keep up the good work, Ken!

Ken Ronkowitz said...

There are share buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I'll have to add a FB Like button too.

But I'm glad you Like us!

arshiya said...

Hi there. I believe it is crucial to do those things which you love as the joy derived from them helps you sustain through the monotony and sometimes agony from those things you HAVE to be involved in.Things like fmaily commitments or a job you may not like but it gives you a fat pay package or as a student scoring well and studying coures which may not lie in your sphere of interest.
Since i love writing it helps me connect to my true self and feel happy and whole. :)