Sunday, April 06, 2008

If Blogging Doesn't Kill You, The Conversation About It Might...

Okay, so I'm probably going to get called a tasteless cheeky monkey for that headline--but ever since the NYTimes article In Web World of 24/7,Writers Blog Till They Drop there's been such a hubub in the blogosphere that one can barely keep up with the commentary without totally blowing up one's browser...

It's been fascinating watching all the hoo-had, and folks saying the article was link-baiting (it wouldn't be if people didn't get their knickers in a bunch and just let it slide) or that it was tasteless because it was perceived to make light of the deaths of Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant (not to mention Om Malik's heart attack), or that it was just too much hype by an outsider observer of a hype filled world...

Seriously, though....was the article really any more hype-a-riffic than those "you can be a blog millionarie!" articles that were in BusinessWeek and New York Magazine over the past few years??? Those articles that made it look as if only the lazy and untalented were not making their millions at blogging.

And that was never the case. It was just wicked seriously hard to get one's voice heard, let alone the requisite click-throughs and networking connections to begin to get the contracts that would translate into making respectable self-sustaining income from blogging. And most of the people who did make that money had backgrounds in something other than blogging...still, some of them struggled at first too...

Blogging, early on, wasn't necessarily meant to be a self-sustaining, career or empire building thing. I don't think anyone thought it would become some sort of industry all on its own.

Some people made it into that, while others (your Humble Narrator included) have managed to make something from it...

That doesn't mean it's not stressful. In fact, I've found it, at times, to be stressful to the level that the Times article portrayed it (and my recent kidney stone operation may have been a result of that stress.) I've been up till the wee hours on projects; going sleepless because someone was demanding something that I knew, deep-down, was thoroughly unreasonable (but they wouldn't believe me); or was working way too many contracts in order to make that reasonable, self-sustaining income. I gained weight, too--only about 15 lbs though.

But I found that other folks working on start-ups also gained weight. So the weight wasn't from blogging, inasmuch as it was from the fact that the blogging was related to start-ups and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

So, in all the hoo-ha and, in some cases, denial that there could *possibly* be any stress related to blogging, there were a few posts that made great sense:

Henry Blodget says that it's a lot like being part of start-ups...and he's right. I know this from comparing notes with start-up folks in other fields. Our stress--and weight gain--is similar....

Doc makes an important comment that there's a difference "in kind between writing to produce understanding and writing to produce money, even when they overlap. There are matters of purpose to consider, and how one drives (or even corrupts) the other."

There's also an excellent comment to Doc's post from Trudy Schuett who notes the wild disparity in pay rates for blogging...this is something I've experienced, and read about, and have even heard from experienced writers, some of whom are being low-balled for online work that's been more intensive than print work they've done for the exact same publications...

Matt Ingram has a decent commentary on the matter, as does Renee Blodgett who obliquely notes that the insanity's gotten a bit worse since the whole social networking thing....

And danah boyd has some very important thoughts on how workaholism is rewarded by corporate culture
can't help but wonder if all of this is leading us down a dangerous path. The young and highly motivated turn into self-competing workaholics, often fueled by stimulants - legal (e.g., coffee), illegal (e.g., cocaine), and prescription (e.g., Provigil). Older folks and those who want to "have a life" look at this insanity with horror and back quietly away trying not to startled the hopped up beasts.

This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't playing into professional culture more broadly. Increasingly, only those bent on workaholism are valued as employees. Those who don't push it to extremes are disregarded as lazy in many industries. There is pressure to work 24/7 and there are plenty of folks who take this seriously, even if it's not in their best interests let alone the rest of society's. I get so ravingly mad at my (primarily male) colleagues who work 14 hour days even though they have small children that they never see. It's one thing to be a workaholic as a single 20-something; it's another thing to be a workaholic as a parent. I get to see the flipside of that one - teens starved for attention, desperate to please in the hopes of being given attention and validation.


Also see great "chill out" messages from Om Malik and Paul Glazowski at Mashable! who gives us a non-star's perspective, which I could so relate to...

So, yes, blogging can be stressful, like starting lots of other kinds of business, esp. like tech start-up businesses--and there are lots of logical reasons for that. It's hard to have perspective on success, too, because we don't hear much from the grunts like Paul and myself and lots of others who are doing o.k. with this whole blogging thing, possibly in spite of the stress and in spite of what others thought we could do with this blogging thing (going into blogging as a career = going into acting as a career...) The industries that are looking to blogging to save their failing business models don't want to hear about the grunts--they want only the hype of the superstars.

But are we even grunts? Or maybe it's that we've reached a certain level of success that's ok for us. I'm sure I'll never be Mike Arrington, or Xeni Jardin, or any number of superstars you can name on any day. But have I made something out of nothing? Have I turned a profit over the past two years of my consulting business? Have I contributed, in some small way to changing things, even though lots of local people have no idea what I do for a living?

You betcha!

And maybe that's not a bad place to be....

2 comments:

Wendell said...

I think the "blogging will kill you" story(s) is/are related to all those "blogging is over - go twitter" stories posted in the last few months.

Somewhere out there sleepless people are pacing, thinking '... something new about blogging... I've got to say something new about blogging...'

:p

Tish Grier said...

Hi Wendell...

and yeah, I think you're right--freelancers pacing and going nuts trying to say something new about blogging. Some folks just have to complicate matters all the time.