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May 15, 2006

Writing Well For Pay?


Certainly, blogs have intensified -- and, in some instances, perhaps, deepened -- our national conversation about the arts. They've been most helpful, to be sure, in disciplines like the visual arts and classical music that struggled for coverage in mainstream media outlets. And in well-covered areas like popular music, where I do most of my writing, they've helped break down the tyranny of sales as a virtually exclusive measure of which artists should be covered. All of that is to the good.
I'm not nearly so high-minded as to leave things there, however. I raise two issues -- one lofty and one more, shall we say, pragmatic. The first is that I rarely hear anyone talk about the quality of writing in blogs. People seem to read less carefully online, and, because of that, writers tend to write less carefully for them. We finally are writers, after all? Does this make a difference to anyone?
The other matter is, ahem, getting paid for doing this work. I did plenty of writing for free when I was starting out, and occasionally still do for academic journalis and such. But as so many newspapers and magazines implode, how is anyone supposed to make a living doing this? I read in the NY Times this morning that enrollments in journalism school are increasing, and I teach a writing seminar every fall at Penn filled with a dozen or so aspiring arts journalists. These people care deeply about the arts, but they also would like to make a decent living writing about them. I suppose that many of those energetically blogging kids being extolled in the entries here would like to do that as well. What is the prospect of that? For them? For ourselves in the future? Do we care?
I don't need to see a business model -- though, if anyone has one, bring it on. But I am curious to hear anyone's speculations about this.

Posted by at May 15, 2006 8:41 AM


If I didn't blog, magazines and newspapers never would have called with paying work. And I would like to think I have a built-in audience willing/ready to buy books by me.

A blog is essentially marketing-made-public. It also has a nice side-benefit: Because people in the industry (the visual arts) know me from the blog, I have access for paying work. And because I have access to industry folk, I learn things that I can turn into paying work. It's a self-feeding cycle.

Posted by: Tyler Green at May 15, 2006 8:49 AM

*Ahem* At 43, I don't think of myself as a "kid", and I don't think anyone else does, either. I do the blogging for personal reasons, which include a passionate dissatisfaction with how the mainstream media in Australia covers theatre. And I strive to make my blog well-written, and in fact know of many well-written blogs. Which only goes to show that any generalisation about blogging will not hold when you look at the actual phenomenon. Its strength (as well as, no doubt, its weakness) is crucially in its diversity.

I have made a little money from ancillary activities that stem from my blogging but, sadly, most of my income has to come from novels. I don't know how you solve this. But one aspect of being outside the economic structure is that it gives you a great deal of freedom.

Posted by: Alison Croggon at May 15, 2006 3:10 PM

I'd merely like to add that getting paid for one's work is hardly a guarantee of quality - whatever that may be - in writing as every other area of endeavour.

Posted by: Lee at May 16, 2006 11:47 PM

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