So you want to make money by writing your own blog on the internet? To be successful, you need to be motivated, committed, and have a burning desire to say something. If you have these traits, you’re on the right track and with a little guidance might be off to a flying start.
Why writers write
Writers write because they must. As the renowned writer Harlan Ellison put it, “I would write if I was on a desert island by myself. I would put it on the back of Galapagos turtles and hope that somebody would find it and read it.” A few basics about writing: first, it is a process-oriented task, as opposed to a result-oriented one. What that means is that you have to write for the love of the craft itself, and not for any pre-established reward. If writing is a burden and you’re only doing it as a means to an end, you will wash out after you publish your first couple of pieces and they are not glowing hits — which unless some extraordinary factor is also in play, is the normal way of things and exactly what will happen. The best writers in the world will tell you of the first rejection slips, the initial few sales. J.K. Rowling will tell you that nobody wanted to publish Harry Potter because they thought it was too odd. True story.
Goals of a writer
Your goals as a writer are two-fold: first, you need to be constantly upping your game. The way you are writing today is only the stepping stone to how you’ll be writing next month or next year and that’s how you have to think about it. This is a fluid process. If you hit a certain initial level and never go beyond it, your readers will get bored. Second, your only goal as a writer is to get read. Period.
Let me be clear. The need to have one’s voice heard is why everyone who’s ever been worth reading has gotten into the game, because of something to say and a burning desire to say it. Ray Bradbury was immensely successful, selling eight million copies of his work, translated into 36 languages, plus television and film projects. Speaking of why one writes or why he wrote he said, “When we go looking for a book to read, we go looking for ourselves.” We’re looking for someone else of like mind to commune with. Bradbury said that the most touching incident of his career was not receiving one of his many awards or making a fortune. Instead, he tells an anecdote of being held over at a locale for an hour and a friend of his had gathered a dozen readers who brought copies of one of his books for him to sign, and to chat with him. That one on one discussion of the work and how it had touched his readers, “is what it’s all about,” Bradbury said.
Now the writers quoted are successful fiction writers, but the basic rules are the same for non-fiction as well. So what do you have to bring to the reader? Hopefully a depth of knowledge about a subject, and a spin of your own which makes your ideas on the topic worth coming back to again and again. The combination of the two will make up your trademark “voice” as a writer. Don’t worry about competition, because no two writers have exactly the same voice. It’s like flavors of ice cream, there’s always room in the world for some new variation.
Practically speaking, an internet blog will have to be on a certain area, although once established you can expand your subject matter to anything you like. For example, let’s say you have a great interest in movies and you want to write reviews. There are plenty of releases coming out, so you’ll have no lack of material. Your job is to write a piece which grabs the reader’s attention and then proceeds to describe the movie in an engaging and entertaining way, giving plenty of context as to how this movie fits in with others of it’s genre. This is the minimum that you need to do, because there are already a slew of critics in print and broadcast media and of course, your medium of choice, the internet, and so something more is going to be required from you to stand out. Daunted? You should be. But the good news is, that if you love your subject matter and you’re dying to share your knowledge and your insight, it will be a joy.
And that’s the key. Writing should be a joy. To quote Bradbury again, he said, “I never worked a day in my life.” He was 86 when he said that and had been writing professionally over 60 years. But it was not work, he stressed, it was a joy. Bradbury also said, “forget about money, because you can’t make any,” and spoke about “taking a vow of poverty.” Bradbury made plenty of money, but not because he set out to do so. He set out to write well and get read and there is no other recipe for success. The money was a consequence of doing everything else right.
One other caveat: this is an endeavor where there are peaks and valleys. You need to know that so when you’re in a valley you recognize it as such and don’t let it develop into a slough of despond from which there is no escape. Every writer experiences this. Everybody in any creative art form experiences it. Writing is not an activity where you reach a certain level of expertise and then just sail away effortlessly into the sunset, in some endless loop of static endeavor. There will be times when you nail it, and your piece does well and other days where you can’t get arrested, as the saying goes. That happens to everybody, especially on the internet, where you live by clicks. A truly great piece and I have seen them, can generate enough revenue to buy you a car. A run of the mill piece might buy you a couple of tacos. Seriously.
Be your own boss
The internet is a fickle lover, there’s no question. But the good news is this: because it is an open, social medium, you can be your own boss. The pieces you post will be the pieces you want to post, not ones you have to run past an editor and try to get accepted for a particular publication. You can interface directly with your audience. The only boundaries are that of imagination, as Rod Serling said. This is the freest medium available.
It’s not easy, it takes a lot of work. When starting out you’re going to have to write every day. You may be able to post every few days but in order to do that, you’re going to have to write every day. If you’re not sufficiently motivated to do that, find another avocation, because this one takes dedication. It has never been any other way. Only people who don’t write think that it’s something to do with inspiration and muses, or something you do, “when you have the time.” Writers know that you just sit down and do it and that the only time is now.
Harlan Ellison said, “Those who can be deterred from writing should be.” If after reading this, you think you’re up to the task, give it a shot. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and every piece of writing is one word after another. If you hear the sirens calling it’s as simple as this: right now, pull up a fresh screen. And. Write.
Featured image by @sahxic < twitter
Webpublify helps writers who want to start making money writing an online blog by taking care of all the non-writing parts: the technology, the advertising (or other monetization), and strategies for social media promotion. Sign up today for a free trial account.