Like so many aging adults, I am watching my cash flow with increasing trepidation as it dips and drops. I confess, I have not followed the recommendations of money managers and set aside a gazillion dollars in my retirement accounts. And like so many of my peers, I am facing a harsh reality that my income will not sufficiently cover my expenses for the potential length of time I am granted on this earth.
It’s Not Fair
I also admit that I am confounded when it comes to understanding how money is supposed to work. I get the basic principle: effort is rewarded with compensation that is then returned to the economy through purchasing goods. My understanding of this falls apart, however, when it comes to deciding just how much effort should be rewarded by what level of compensation.
For example, I do not understand why most artists are starving while a few are paid huge amounts of money. I truly am befuddled by TikTok Influencers and touring Big Name Musicians who receive beaucoup bucks just for wearing sparkly outfits (or nothing at all), or who yell, scream, and/or dance a few nights a month, when graduates of Julliard, Parsons, and Carnegie Mellon are still trying to land a steady job in their field. And please explain the salaries paid to men who wear underwear as uniforms, toss a ball into a hoop for a living, and sell gym shoes?
Why Should I Be Paid?
I have been mulling ways to increase my cash flow. One of the current gig-economy upstarts for bloggers is creating a subscription for readers. There are different types of subscriptions: Donations (please consider sending me a few bucks), special content (the basic is free, but “special content” is sent to subscribers), and/or drip (you get some of but not all of an article or blog).
While these are intriguing ways of asking for money, the underlying question remains, why should you pay me to read my words?
The Making of a Writer; It’s More than Stringing Words Together
I have always enjoyed writing. I had a mother who doted on me and led me as a child to believe that I had some talent and skill in writing. This was reinforced as I went through school, receiving high marks on papers, creative and otherwise. I have continued in this pursuit and have written some books that people have paid good money for. I have even autographed a few, which really made me feel special!
So, I do have some evidence to suggest that my words may be worth something. But how do I determine how much?
AI: The New Frontier
This last week I received an email from a trusted source, Sandra Beckwith, who was encouraging folks like me who blog to consider using artificial intelligence to create posts. Because I value her opinion, I checked out the company and its product.
In case you are not up on the latest, artificial intelligence is now able to do pretty much everything. At least that is how it is marketed. It anticipates what music you want to listen to, what restaurants you want to eat at, and which shows you want to watch.
It can drive your car and beat you at chess. It can send you soothing messages and remind you to exercise. It does all this through using massive computing power to put everything into an algorithm blender and pops out a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities of things within seconds.
Who Is Creating?
It’s pretty good, too. And it is the new, shiny toy that so many want to play with. But it just doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t seem fair! And I don’t know how I could justify using it to “write my blog” and then charge a reader to read it. I mean, I have a hard time asking for money for my own words, but at least I know what my effort was in putting my thoughts down!
I am truly stuck on this. Hemingway and Fitzgerald suffered for their art. They struggled with putting words down and, only through the grace of editors, the tolerance of family members, and undeniable talent did works such as Tender is the Night, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls make it into the hands of readers and on the shelves of libraries.
Maybe We Aren’t So Special After All
Here’s a tough thought – what if humans are not that special spark of something? What if the “human” element is nothing more than a yet-to-be-discovered algorithm? What if “talent” was just some combination of random occurrences that resulted in a product that was successfully marketed and turned into a “hit”. Like Milli-Vanilli?
I’m Not Willing to Go There . . . Yet
I know that not everyone sees the world the way I do. I also acknowledge that not everyone has the verbal ability to share that experience. I also will admit that I both enjoy the process of writing and at some level am unable to restrain myself from putting words down and sharing my ideas. For all these reasons, I see some value to continuing to do this without the benefit of artificial intelligence.
I am going to hold on to my belief that there is something special about being human. But I would be a fool not to check out this thing called “AI”. I am going to see whether this new kid on the block lives up to the hype, but stick with my tried-and-true efforts in writing my blogs. I hope I am not a Luddite here.
Which Brings Me Back To . . .
How do writers get paid for writing? I notice the folks at Wikipedia are asking for donations, as are authors of several newsletters I receive. From a marketing perspective, giving something away for free and then asking for payment feels less than honest. Still, if I am as good a writer as I think I am, giving my words away for free doesn’t make sense either.
Would you pay to read my words? If yes, how much? Would you like “special” content (for your eyes only!) or would you expect wit and wisdom delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis for free? Oh, wait! That’s what is happening now! I am truly open to suggestions (and donations!). Write me at email@example.com.
4 responses to “Money Makes the World Go Around”
Mary, always love both the openness and the skillful articulateness of your writing! I’ve been a poet since age 17 (poetry just ARRIVED, and is the “gift that keeps on giving” in my life). However, as a quite cynical (or merely accurate) career “advisor” told me in my Early Days, “being a poet is a sure path to the poorhouse.” Gee, thanks for that! Now I acquired entire lifetime of (some terrific!) poetry, which I am reviewing to possibly anthologize in some way, (the not GREAT ones get put into “outtakes”), although how such a money-driven, mercantile and shallow society as ours would ever pay me for my fetish, I have not yet seen! I.E., I GET your blog, in spades!!! Thank you.
I live with an artist and if she got paid even half of the current minimum wage per hour for her work, I’d be thrilled.
But, as you said so well, this is not the world we live in. So, yes, charge for your words— at least in a way that you can keep all your readers (and maybe get some new ones) with a basic or drip style. Or go all in and see how many devoted fans you have. ( I’m one for sure!)
I believe you should charge–at least something. Some content might be free so as not to cut off those who can’t afford to pay as well as attract others who might be testing the waters. Those of us who are fortunate enough to pay should. My check will be in the mail!
Hi Mary! Well said all! I’ve been mulling over the AI question since you posted this (and I’ve had some of those companies contact me too). I think we are soon in for *avalanches* of mediocre, possibly useful but uninspired AI-assisted writing. What will become MORE valuable is (1) truly inspiring writing that provides beauty, moves people and changes their thinking, and (2) curation of the firehose of information, filtering it so people can take in a manageable amount of truly interesting and relevant material. You are well-placed to provide both of these important services, and they are both well worth paying for. I hope the same is true for me 🙂 Warmest holiday wishes and thank you for your blog and all that you do to support your fellow time-enriched humans!