|Photo by Jason Tester|
So I'm writing for another blog. It's not just a guest post situation; I'm actually a blogger there. Today was my first post (and yesterday was the launch) of a blog called Grounded Parents. While some of you who've written in requesting the deets of my personal life (multiple times and as though you are auditioning for the role of the tough-as-nails investigator on the new CSI: SF/Bay Area) might relish the opportunity to gain another piece in the puzzle, the blog really isn't about writing, and so I won't do a lot of cross posting here. I'll probably put a link in my Folks Worth Checking Out page but otherwise you won't see much unless I write something there that also applies particularly to writing.
However I do want to use it to make a point.
Writers will have lots of opportunities to write. From skeevy offers for unpaid freelance work to professional opportunities like tech writing and freelance writing that aren't creative. They can always go on Craigslist and end up writing scat fetish porn for a penny a word. But while writing opportunities are everywhere, a writer wants to be very careful which ones they pursue. Many of these opportunities are unpaid, and the ones that are may quagmire a writer in an unfulfilling, non-creative loop. A career writing electric toothbrush instruction manuals might allow a writer to light their cigars with five hundred dollar bills, but it would be an empty and hollow life of alcohol, drugs, and double-jointed prostitutes. There would be no real fulfillment. One of the toughest choices for an unpublished writer with a career path that is still unmanifest is to walk away from something that's not going to be worth their time.
However, especially if you are in on the e-pub/blogging/self promotion side of the business of writing, it is equally important to be able to recognize a really good opportunity when one comes along. You don't want to be so focused on your own shit that you never write for anyone but yourself. The world of social media is a tricky beast and sometimes the best thing you can do is be seen outside of your normal circles doing what you do. Every advice column out there on how to get more traffic recommends doing guest posts and just being SEEN writing in other places--even if it's just commenting. Any writing that you might be interested in doing anyway, done on major blogs, actually can be great exposure, even if they're not tipping over wheelbarrows of money into your cash pool. Writing About Writing has already had a dozen referrals from Grounded Parent and it's only the first day.
Unfortunately I've known more than a few writers, some far better writers than I, who asked for signal-boosting without giving any back, wouldn't collaborate, and never did anything for which they were not paid, and they have all inevitably had a very difficult time expanding beyond their own ability for self-promotion. You have to recognize the importance of other people in this industry--especially if you are going the e-pub/self-pub/blogging route. But even in the incestuous world of traditional publishing, if you are always looking out for number one, no one will ever put their neck out for you either.
There isn't a hardline for judging this. Just know that bullshit is probably going to smell like bullshit, and if you recognize the name of a blog without looking it up, you're probably looking at a great opportunity. In the vast ocean between these two extremes, it's going to be up to your best judgement. If you feel like your career is going well and you need to push hard in that direction, you may want to pass on more of the middle-of-the-road propositions. If you are just starting out, you might err on the side of getting the experience.
Just don't be afraid to flip them off with both hands and say "NOPE!" if it turns out to be something that isn't good for you.
You always want to beware of bullshit, snake oil salesmen, dead ends, and careers where you can "be a writer" but that aren't really the type of writing you'd like to do, but at the same time you don't want to be too good to write for anything but yourself, too focused on self promotion to realize the benefit of having your name shouted from a few new towers and too mercenary about pay to miss a good opportunity.