When I Flounce: Part Two

 

I have met my goal of publishing a blog per day for one year. I did this in order to get better as a writer, not to become the next blogging sensation. The world is too overpopulated with self described “writers” who will cut a throat in order to get ahead. The world is populated with those good people who have put their life’s efforts into writing as a career. The world is populated with newly empowered amateurs who have something to say. They are capable of  writing quite well, much to the dismay of the professionals.

Up to a year ago, I have had other things in life to achieve and overcome and I have achieved and overcome them.

I found a lovely site that allowed writing and that had a bit of a society going on. My first writing efforts are like my old paintings: full of weaknesses and technical sins that will make any college or high school teacher cringe. But I never wrote or painted for college or high school teachers. I wrote for people who got the point, who were encouraging and kind, and who insisted that they kept up with my writings and paintings.

I wrote at a place where anyone can write anything that they want to. The big glittering generalities were that “its freeeee!”; “Where else do you get to write?”; “You’re getting an opportunity, exposure and the company of the rest of us who can’t get paid!”

I wrote over 400 articles, or posts. The best of them are here at WordPress. The others were responses to breaking news, local interest, or just good, silly fun with others who needed to blow off some steam. Then I started to write serious articles about science and politics and sociology. I won a couple of contests at another site, which was a big boost. I had the decent views, nice ratings, and excellent support of readers. I read voraciously and supported many a struggling, but good writer who was not getting many views.

But something happened. The atmosphere of my first serious writing site became poisoned with the same internal and organizational dysfunction and corruption that goes on when lots of people congregate in order to meet goals: There were contributors who had multiple accounts, and therefore multiple chances to add to their own and to other’s presence. There were cliques of  writers who insisted that only they were worthy of being dubbed “the best” at the site. The stronger and more prominent “personalities” sucked up the oxygen, either with furious and mean expressions of discontent or with furious and mean spirited attacks aimed at the expressions of discontent. Finally, there was a completely astounding announcement that we could be published at a higher level, with more public exposure (and still without pay).

Wait a minute. We already contributed thousands of pages (and therefore advertising views) without pay of any merit, and now we are pleased to be allowed to contribute along with the paid staff for free? I look at it this way. After a year (or two or five in some cases), folks were going to get discovered or they weren’t. But let us lose the idea of being a stable of unpaid and easily manipulated drones. Somebody has to show up with at least a handful of  brass rings to toss into the roiling crowd.

As with any endeavor where there is competition to be the “best”, or the most popular, there were complaints about the unfairness of the selection process for those goodies. In the case of writing, the most popular or the hand picked got the exposure. These got the views. These helped to build the audience of readers. I had gotten more positive results than most and was happy. Others could not tolerate the situation and left, even though they were much higher on the ladder of success than most of us. They were sorely missed.

But the complaints generated either hostile disregard or hard core retaliation by the machine against the insurrectionists who ranted and raved against the machine. The machine, simply put, had to make enough money to maintain itself.  That is fair enough. Survival meant showcasing whatever it was that got the audience to show up. The “serious” writers were incensed at the shallow treatments of pop culture and cat stories. The “hopeful” writers were incensed at the lack of recognition. Many more of us started to leave just as new people started to arrive.

But suddenly, the insurrectionists who for the longest time could not shut up about the machine became part of the machine. They flipped themselves over into gods of correctness. They were back on the market as newly renovated positivity machines,  badgering and advising the rest of us to get with the program; to see the benefits of writing without pay and without paying. They barked at us to stop whining. They barked at us to go away if we did not like the system which, somehow, had magically managed to finally satisfy their individual needs and wants. But going away was not enough. Some were sneered at for simply leaving, others were jeered at for having to courtesy to say goodbye.

I had managed to miss or to avoid most of the drama and angst, contributing only a handful of rants during my year. Much of the drama and angst must have gone on behind the scenes as the private mail flew back and forth. Whatever it was that caused the flare up that resulted in the weeks of constant hectoring and griping, the atmosphere of the place was fatally poisoned for me.

I asked myself what any of this had to do with getting paid, and several months ago found a site that honestly pays a little per article, has incredibly high standards, and which has caused me to be even more determined and self critical. My writing has gotten better by leaps and bounds without the help of any self described “community of friends”. Instead, I have improved with the help of a community of writers.

Then, it became clear to me. My improvements during the past year did not result from posting at the holy grail of writing sites which had sucked up so much of my time and attention. My improvements certainly cannot be credited to the self appointed writing cops who arrive unannounced to attack the bad grammar and the misspellings of a post. It is not that I rejected the advice of the writing cops; it is that the best ones simply wrote advice columns, which I read. The rest were loudly and aggressively shut away by others, and they never bothered anyone again.

The only problem with those who appoint themselves to attack bad writing or to attack amateur writers, lies in their inability to adjust their tone and their references. Some of them fail to understand that there is a teacher’s tone and attitude that is not well received at all when the teacher is outside of the classroom and is operating in the real world.

This is a shame, because someone who shares their great understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar is a priceless advisor to those who simply want to improve their writing. I just like to have it without the emotional drama or remembrances of past teacher trauma. I’ve always said that no one can kill an artist faster than a teacher, and people who get over it in later years in order to try again will be aggressive in rejecting those who are arrogant, discourteous, unfair, discouraging or resentful.

My improvements had been made by me, alone, as I adapted, did more editing, read the advice posts, did enormous amounts of reading, went to another site that has higher standards (and which pays, by the way) and by simply refusing to write without developing into a better writer.

Now I have my two contest wins and my first published (but not paid) article. Officially, it is published at a small site that is just beginning to do something with itself. Personally, it fills the square called being “published” by someone who is not I, and I could not be happier!

As for my flounce, leaving is still up in the air. When the affection, trust and respect is sucked out of a relationship, there is no longer a bond. This is a painful and disturbing process, but it is a necessary part of moving on to more rewarding and productive endeavors in life.  Difficult processes often lead to enlightenment.

There is still a very strong personal and emotional investment in the place. But I realize that when a place is not meeting my personal standards, then it is just fine to let it be. As far as gratitude, there is none. I have contributed several paid subscriptions worth of content that drew plenty of advertising views. We are even, as far as I am concerned.

Who knows? It’s the internet! We don’t have to carry baggage when we move along here. In fact, we do not even have to move on. I will keep checking in to support my favorites. Perhaps the poisonous atmosphere will improve and things will return to better days. But my writing will be done in other places, with a fresh start and with a far more positive viewpoint that is not dragged down by group, individual, or any other problematic behavior.

After my year of writing dangerously, I am glad to have retained a passion for writing the best content that I can do. I am glad to read other writers who grab my mind and my heart and give them both a great shake. I am glad to have never bought into reading miserable stuff simply because I am told that it is the greatest writing of our times.

Some art is merely the greatest hype of our times. I hope not to write to the hype and I have no time to read the hype.  I am well on my way to a second year of writing and reading dangerously.  And if I encourage myself and others to perservere, but to set some healthy personal standards as to their environment, then that is good enough.

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