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Writing for Dollars

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by Koan, Aug 22, 2009.

  1. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    I've found the posts here about writing online very interesting. $5 for 500 words is a profoundly sobering reality. I've written for print in the past and found the sums paid totally insufficient and they were 50 to 100 times better. I don't have the confidence to tackle this kind of assignment any longer and recently turned down a proffered book review for our national newspaper. My body is simply not reliable enough and my brain began to hurt just contemplating it.

    Nonetheless, it is something that can be done lying down with my laptop on my lapdesk so must be considered and I do but my cognitive issues are such that writing is an exhausting, sometimes excruciating, undertaking.

    Also, given my present circumstances -- virtually all of my interaction with others is written communication online -- I'm all written out socializing. Were I to write professionally again, I could not write simply to communicate any longer and writing is isolating and lonely enough at the best of times.

    How do others who write reconcile these challenges?

    peace
  2. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Koan,

    I was writing for a penny a word for 2 months on a couple different copywriting websites. Bargain basement pay, but it was better than the nothing I was making before.:) It brought in about $100 a month, which helped our then $400 or so a month income.

    I have been fortunate because I am able to write at length again, something I really didn't think would ever happen. It's been 7 or 8 yrs since I had quit writing, due to illness. I missed it but the ability, the mental aquity, the energy were gone.

    This has come back to me slowly over the last maybe 2 yrs, first in my own journalling and then since spring, I have had some luck in writing online again.

    I applied to a couple writing gigs online and was lucky to get accepted by empowHer.com, a women's health site. They wanted me to write about recovering from cfs, the only thing I could write about. :) Unfortunately they didn't pay, unless I were to be the writer who got the most pageviews per month, then I'd get $500 for that month. But I was never the highest pageview. The exposure for my writing, and the chance to reconnect with the world -- any world -- was enough for me at the time. And I was rusty and needed practice.

    I started my website Ncubator.ca in May, (I may have conflicting dates and amounts in different posts on here, I have cfs numbers dyslexia still) and was surprised to find that I could polish off 4 articles every week and feel fine.

    After my foray into copywriting had dried up, I was asked by empowher.com to write 8 articles a month for them for $250. This was a good step up, I had already been writing and getting a good response there and so far (started Aug. 3) it has gone well.

    It is challenging to balance writing for myself on Ncubator, for empowher for the money and the connection to that world, and also all the forums, facebook, and emails that I need so much for myself. There was a week or so when I was also still writing 4 articles a week for $5 for 500 words, and things were getting hairy. :D

    I miss the extra $100 but don't miss the hassle I was starting to get from one of those editors and felt since empowher was paying me more and didn't cause me confusion and anxiety, that I should let the others go and just stay with empowher for the moment.

    Once I have my balance again I will look for some other writing jobs again.

    There is always the fear of a crash, always the need to try to pace myself (always hard to do when I write) but so far I have been okay.

    Don't know if this spoke to any of your questions. Let me know if it has not. :)
  3. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Let me add this.

    If you are uncertain that you can take on writing professionally again, and if you can afford not to for now, listen to your body and your brain's urging and ... wait. Or at least, if you do decide to give it a try, start very small and very slow and always have an exit strategy ( as in, be ready to back out and stay out for awhile.)

    To go in before you are able could cause repercussions to your healing.

    I know 2 yrs ago I could not have handled what I am doing these days. I needed that time of stillness, in order to get this far along.
  4. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Prices for web writing are low to the point of abysmal. I'm not sure who is doing that writing or why/how they consider it meaningful pay. Unless in general they are just spitting out words. If you want to look at it in a sweatshop way, as to how many pieces you can produce in a given hour, and I suppose if you could do 3 pieces an hour for $5 a piece, you'd be earning $15 an hour which if you did enough hours in a day might supplement a family income, who knows. But unfortunately it undermines the whole concept of craft, of meaningful information. And for me it would be exhausting to think of turning out countless short pieces.

    I think Jody's situation is a little unique. First of all she is developing a presence and platform. Second she has an ability and affinity for short easily read and yet meaningful pieces. Third the Empowher site gives her MORE of a platform and in the context of her family income the $250 a month is quite meaningful. But for most of us, writing that many brief yet intelligent pieces would be tough, and we don't have blogs that we want to develop etc.

    Print media is suffering--and I've been trying to figure out how I feel about it. In discussing it with friends I decided to go on the financial equivalent of a crash diet. I figured out a budget for food and stuff and am going to be very strict and also creative. I think I can live within a spartan budget for a while, and devote that time to trying to get a creative project going. I give myself a few months of that and we'll see where I get.
  5. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    NOOO! The post wasn't too long at all, Jenbooks! I've been savoring returning to your post and replying - there was much richness!

    I'm not up to the task of this topic right now but I must face it soon as I dream each night of work and wake steeped in anxiety.

    I came back today to reply to the lifestyle management thread as I have had some real success with pacing which is why I am now considering, if only in my uneasy dreams, the possibility of reclaiming some of who I was.

    Thank you both for sharing your journeys with me.
  6. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Well...I blathered on too long....so I edited it but I'm glad you got to read it before my deletes.

    You should indeed reclaim yourself. And I've been thinking about your other post and living within limited means. I can't remember if I posted suggestions that you find a church volunteer or someone who volunteers to help the elderly or homeless, who'd be willing to 1) drive you to dentist or eye doc and 2) once a month shop for you in a cheaper better supermarket so you can stretch your food farther. I am just pretty certain in a city like Ontario there are such folks or even programs. Somebody's got to be willing to donate that bit of time. Tho your diet seems healthy it lacks fish or chicken or meat and you may need those amino's to build yourself up. Did I mention I'm going to try cooking the very cheap salmon fish heads from my local fish market? I've seen them when they fillet the mackerel for me and I began to wonder what I could do well it turns out they're a delicacy. I have learned ways to cook cheap but healthy. For instance--I *am* buying the $4 fresh local organic beans rather than the $1.29 Goya old beans. So I soak them overnight, this takes 1 minute of effort. I pour off the water, that is another 1 minute of effort. I dump them in the crockpot and add some water that is 2 minutes of effort. Hours later I have soft beans and I throw in some cut up carrots and onions that might take 4 minutes of effort. When they are al dente cooked I eat some beans, pouring extra virgin Bariani olive oil (stone ground from California) and some pepper. A total of 10 minutes of effort. Now if I made some more effort and added rice I might have a better meal. I tend to graze. Earlier today my lunch consisted of sour currants (two boxes) and goat cheese (2 pounds for $6 on sale...I probably ate half a pound). I admired much about your careful lifestyle but was a little concerned about your limited diet. It isn't unrelated to writing and reclaiming self...

    Okay if you like I will go into some more detail. My situation has been a perilous and scary balancing act. Over the last 9 years of lyme I have made some improvements from certain aspects and declined in other aspects. When I am feeling more hopeful I feel that the universe might "protect" me as long as I have something to offer. When I am feeling totally depressed I feel the universe has deserted me and doesn't care what I have to offer. But the reality is whenever I am faced with a compromise of my soul--one that it SEEMS I should make because I am ill, I refuse to compromise. I quit a very nice paying home gig because my boss was anti Semitic and I could not tolerate his slurs. Even tho I had lyme and needed that gig I said to myself "If I didn't have lyme I would quit yesterday. So I am quitting today." I created other income/opportunities. Something in me enjoys proving I can do it even when up against the wall and having to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Right now I'd rather do an extremely spartan tight budget than write crap I don't want to for fees that won't really help me that much. I'd rather see if there is something else I can create myself. Now just how long can I keep that up? God only knows. I sort of swing between swaggering and whimpering ;). Anyway I just figure that if I lose my "self"--well then nothing is worth anything anymore anyway. That has been my battle for the last nine years. So I say yes reclaim yourself--but what is that self? Is it web writing for $5? What do you *really* want to write?
  7. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Well said, jenbooks.
  8. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Well, now I'm almost glad you edited yourself so ruthlessly, Jenbooks, because it moved you to give me a little more and good stuff it is! "I sort of swing between swaggering and whimpering." You have a really good voice and an abundance of moxie - a terrific combination for a writer.

    I read about your fish heads and have been racking my brains to remember if I have ever seen a fish monger in the 'hood. I think that's a brilliant, not to mention delicious, idea and it overcomes some ethical obstacles I feel towards eating fish.

    I am, and have been for decades, largely vegetarian. I know that most people either are or are not vegetarian but I find extremes, in any and all things, problematic. I am a Buddhist (this antedates my vegetarianism) and as such, I am advised to refrain from eating anything which was killed for my consumption. So, when I do eat critter - fish sometimes and very, very rarely chicken, I try to eat the bits that would not be lucrative enough to sustain or motivate the farming or fishing of said beast. Fish heads as a protein source are a perfect ethical fit for me! They also conjure up visions of a farmhouse somewhere romantic and do rather beg wine but, alas... Anyway, I am most grateful to you.

    I loved reading about how you cook and how mindful you are of the ergonomics. I do all things kitchen in precisely the same way. I lurch to the kitchen and toss lentils, brown rice and water into a pot and put it on the heat. Five steps and I'm back on my couch aka bed. When I hear the lid rattle, I lurch back and reduce the heat. When they are cooked I toss in frozen veg and I have the basis of many meals which need only flavour and protein. I dare say we could cook a meal together with nary a word of explanation.

    I cheered for you when you wrote of quitting the job. Good for you! I agree with all you wrote and smiled while I read it. We may be sick but if we cannot remain ethical beings, all is really lost. It seems you are not letting circumstances diminish you. That, I think, is the point of the entire undertaking. One is charged to "do" life with as much grace as one can no matter the challenges. Then one swaggers over to the corner and has a nice long whine... sounds about right to me.

    What do I want to write? I don't know. I was a writer and a video maker and I was always so convinced I had no stories of my own that I never told any. It's not true, of course, we all have a story we are living and they are all fascinating. Nevertheless, I always relied on others to tell me what was important and interesting enough to write about and... But, wait, that wasn't what you asked! I find this question so personally compelling that I jumped right in and began to struggle with it anyway. The unconscious makes life so surprising. I don't know what I really want to write no matter how I understand the question. I suppose, if I am honest, I *really* want to write the thing that makes me the most anxious and which I have avoided always. Writing just that tentative intention makes my breath shallow and my heart race just a bit. I really want to get out of my own way and write my experience... as though it mattered, as though it were interesting, as though it were worth the telling.

    I surprise myself here and I must thank you once again.

    I must also breathe!

    We have been called upon to live this. This is the clay. What will we make of this?

    I must now hit post quick reply or I will lose my nerve...

    eeeek!
  9. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Jody,

    How do you take such care of us and write and, and, and... You are really something!

    Thank you for being the touchstone for all of us. It's much appreciated.
  10. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Jenbooks & Jody,
    I have eaten fish head stew in Barak Obama's father's home territory. I was hired to make a vid. in and around Kisumu. We were set to visit a number of rural villages scattered about the lovely rolling hills of that part of Kenya. At the first village we were greeted by beautiful, brightly clad, singing women, following which babies and wells were named for us and we were given a huge feast of ugali, sukema weeki and fish head stew. It was delicious and we ate heartily. In the next village we were met by beautiful singing women and began to suspect we just might be offered yet another feast of ugali, sukema weeki and fish head stew... and so we were. It was delicious and we ate. We staggered back to the jeep and groaned all the way to the third village where there was singing, babies, wells and food, so much food!

    I can never complain that life has not been generous with me.
  11. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Koan I loved your posts. Ha ha ha you edited for idiocy. That's a good one :).

    Here's the recipe I found online for salmon fish heads. First, just make fish stock (and you could freeze that or reduce it and flavor your lentils/rice--would be quite tasty later! So you stagger to the kitchen, clean the gills because apparently they can have parasites yuck, or have them cleaned at the fishmonger for you, drop it in water, set it to boil, swagger and stagger back to your couch, whine a little, hear the pot rattle, turn flame down and simmer for a couple hours: "After you pluck the now very cooked head and spiny parts out, using your fingers, carefully separate out all the flesh/meat from the head and bones. Add lime juice; fish sauce; grated ginger; chopped onion, cilantro, and chili: mix & let sit for a bit, taste and correct (you want a sort of ceviche, although in this case with very cooked rather than raw fish bits); serve with hot rice."

    Now tell me doesnt that sound delicious. And you can always freeze some of that cooked ceviche. I'm going to cook them in the crockpot. My freezer is kind of small so I don't have a lot of room for fish stock but I may ask my bf to reduce it for me (he likes to do that kind of thing) and have a sauce for later.

    Anyway. I'm glad it meets your ethics because I think you do need a bit of real protein. As for not killing things, the whole basis of life is eat or be eaten whether you are a krill in the ocean or a cougar in the wild. Plants have consciousness too...I think it's the respect with which you do the "killing" preparing and eating. Since we are not killing our own food as we are not farmers...we just need to eat respectfully. If you need some chicken and fish for strength, that's okay, you were born human and you have an illness and you need some strength.

    Beyond that---the energy in your posts says to me, that you could tell your own story. The romantic and adventurous parts of it, and the ascetic part of it with grace now. Underlying it all could be a theme of buddhist striving. I think it would have relevance for many. I bet you are a good writer.
  12. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Jen,
    You really made me laugh which is a problem because you also made my mouth water and it's running down my chin.

    :eek:)
  13. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Koan,

    You all are easier to tend to than my kids when they were small ... :D
  14. kolowesi

    kolowesi Senior Member

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    to all the writers

    Just want to say, this thread is fantastic.

    Keep writing. May money be earned and fish-heads be found.

    Love,
    Kelly
  15. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    LOL Kelly

    In my case, could we tweak the fish-heads for, maybe, roast beef? :rolleyes:

    :p
  16. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Bought My Fish Head

    I bought my fish head. A salmon. The poor fellow was lying there with a very sad grimace, kind of like a politician when he's caught out lying. Next to an equally sad cod head and another sad king something or other head. I asked him to clean the gills. It cost all of $2. Now I will toss it in the crockpot and try not to feel downright cruel :D. I will let you all know how the ceviche works out. Remember, as a writer, everything is grist for the mill...if you see a poem in the New Yorker about fish heads ya'll will know it was me! :p
  17. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    So much depends
    upon the sad fish heads
    glazed with ceviche
    beside the white chickens

    with apologies to...
    OMG, I can't remember his name!!!???!!! I really can't.
    It must begin with two initials because I'm thinking: C.S. Lewis, E.B. White... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
  18. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    I will not Wiki, I will not Wiki, I will not Wiki
    I will remember...

    C.S. White...
    E.B. Lewis...

    argh
  19. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    He had a day job... he was a doctor... no, a dentist... he sold insurance... he had white hair...

    they all have white hair sooner or later

    AAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    I will not Wiki, I will remember!
  20. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    Don't tell me! Don't tell me!

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