I wrote the following when I first started blogging, in late 2006. In revisiting these issues around sex writing online and blogging for money, I see they’re still relevant. In some ways they have been resolved — I write much less about sex now anyway; and as far as “monetizing” my main blog, Dirty Laundry, I’ve more or less given up. Mostly I’ve accepted that I’m not going to earn money blogging except indirectly — by attracting clients. I say “mostly” because every once in awhile, especially when I see or hear of another blogger raking in the bucks, I get mad at myself and go into a whirlwind of activity trying to change the situation. Fortunately, the mood only lasts a day or two.
Here, then, are my still-relevant and somewhat revised thoughts on blogging, money, sex, and ethics.
I blog for love. In this venue, the act of writing feels almost the way it did when I first began, in my twenties: it emerges from passion, without any monetary motive. My writing career has pretty much replicated a saying by Moliere: Writing is a little bit like prostitution. First we do it for love. Then we do it for a few friends. Then we do it for money. Pre-blog, I’d reached the stage where I wrote primarily for money. I still loved it, and occasionally wrote fiction purely for pleasure—but anything else had to hold out the possibility of dollars, if not an actual contract, before I’d set fingers to keyboard.
By the time blogging came along, I was fed up with the publishing industry, sick of its capriciousness, so arbitrary and erratic: whatever I was working on always seemed to be the wrong thing at the wrong time. Usually this meant I was into some issue—bisexuality, serious exploration of motherhood, gender fluidity—ten years before it hit The New Yorker. That’s the god’s honest truth, and if it sounds like I’m bragging, well, I’ve got a right to brag. I oughtta get something out of this revolting situation!
To get back to blogging: I began in October 2006, with no plan or agenda. I did not expect to be blogging every day–but as it turned out, nearly every morning I couldn’t wait to get to my desk and write. Blogging took me back to those early days, when I wrote purely for love. The freedom to say whatever I choose has re-opened a creative dimension I’d almost shut down entirely. Here, nobody’s telling me what I should and shouldn’t write. Nobody’s giving me idiotic advice like “be more upbeat,” or advising me on what’s hot. I write whatever I’m thinking about on any given morning, and with a click I send it out into the blogosphere. It’s been more gratifying than anything I’ve done in decades.
The Sex Dilemma
When I began to post on sexual topics, readers came flying like moths to a flame. This came as no surprise; from the start I suspected that readers who knew I’d written and edited erotic fiction were disappointed to find me blogging instead about the death of my mother and the plight of working folk. As I said, I write whatever’s on my mind—and sex no longer consumes my thoughts the way it did 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Like most adults, of course, I do think about sex on occasion, and I still have things to say about it, so naturally I blog about it sometimes —just not exclusively.
I used to fantasize starting a magazine that would include explicit erotic stories and sex information along with a variety of other topics—movies, cooking, parenting even. I knew it was a pie-in-the-sky dream: in our culture sex is cordoned off from the rest of life, particularly anything having to do with children. Therefore, to include a parenting article, for instance, in the same publication as a sexy short story is strictly taboo.
I might criticize American mores, but I’m not immune to them: when I first thought about posting erotica on my blog, I bumped up against this cultural heresy. I looked at a now-defunct adult blog directory, and saw that bloggers who write erotica, porn, or sex commentary pretty much stick to that one topic.
Can I post an erotic story full of explicit sexual imagery on the same venue where I write about being a grandmother? Will dirty words alienate those readers seeking commentaries on the politics of motherhood? Will one of the Sex Police report my blog to WordPress administrators for “inappropriate” content? This is the dilemma I’ve lived with forever: my erotic writing scares some publishers away from my writing on other topics—particularly anything concerning kids (and nothing concerns kids more than motherhood, my #2 lifetime obsession.)
In the end, I wrote about sexual issues whenever something relevant popped up in the news, and I posted one erotic story every week. I went through my entire oeuvre in about a year: on Erotic Friday, as I called it, my blog consistently drew in more visitors than on any other day. Many of those readers stuck with me after I stopped putting up the stories.
Blogging For Dollars
Another issue that’s driving me quite insane is money, specifically, making money with my blog. I’ve done the research, and it appears I could bring in a small but useful addition to my income by selling books and other products, and, perhaps, taking in ads. It turned out, however, that I would have had to change servers to implement the changes this would entail, since WordPress did not at that time allow certain kinds of ads or “monetization”; they still have strict guidelines on it. At some point I actually tried another platform, but I couldn’t adjust; WP seems to be the most user-friendly one around. Besides, in terms of money, I had and still have more esoteric concerns:
If my blog were a vehicle for making money, would my attitude towards it change? Would blogging feel oppressive, the way writing for publication sometimes does? Would I only write what my audience wanted to read (sex) rather than whatever’s on my mind? Would I feel guilty for skipping a day or two? Would feedback and hits matter more to me than the sheer joy of expression?
Whenever I’ve had to make a choice between money and freedom of expression, I’ve chosen the latter, regardless of financial consequences. Now that I’m older, I have some regrets about this—it’s a myth that “the money will follow.” I’m no longer a 30-something free spirit thumbing my nose at capitalism. The hippie revolution did not occur, and most of the revolutionaries I knew in the 60s and 70s are now successful entrepreneurs. Some of them say they admire my persistence. But persistence in the face of failure is just stupidity.
I’m still struggling with these issues — the money more than the sex writing, which more and more seems trivial by comparison. But I’m slogging and blogging and learning to make money elsewhere. I do that by editing and ghostwriting; as soon as I put up the page listing my services and prices it’ll be linked here. Watch for it!
- Are you using Your Brain in Blogging (famousbloggers.net)