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Writing is Free?

28 Feb

Making a living writing online or owning a website is not as easy as it looks.  Unfortunately the external pressures are the same (or many times greater) than the hardcopy counterparts.  We’ve all surfed the internet for many hours, and it’s obvious there’s everything anyone in life has every thought of.  How does one break in and create/develop/design something original?  Not only that, how does one continue to do it on a regular basis?  In scientific writing it is perfectly accepted to write a paper that contains very little original writing.  There are many a scientific review article that don’t have more than two sentences in a row of writing without a previous article being cited.  If one cites their source no one bats an eyelash at mounds of text or ideas being copied.  Duplicate that feat in journalistic writing, and the plagiarism police will come knocking at the door.  Being a good writer involves natural ability, reading a lot, and of course tons of writing.  The problem with writing in 2013 is that it seems as if everything has already been done.  If an online writer reads ravenously (as they should), odds are they will stumble upon an idea they want to write about that has already been written, or worse yet, an idea they previously wrote about that someone else had already done.  If one gets past the Herculean task of actually finding something novel to write about, then the issue of social relevance comes into play.  Do ordinary people really want to read about Higgs Boson?  No matter how interesting it may be, is it still topical to write about the fiscal cliff?  The issue carried the news for several months, but in less than 60 days it’s completely off the radar.  People are not scouring Google to read about it anymore.  That wonderful article would be lost in the black hole of cyberspace.


Everyone has a boss.  The idea of being a business owner is fantastic, but everything is still tied to the customer.  The consumers ultimately are the boss if one is producing a good or service.  Sure the idea of being able to write or publish anything one desires is liberating, but that isn’t and will never be the case.  Magazines, newspapers, and online writers are compensated by some combination of consumers and advertisements.  If it’s a free publication, it’s normally all from ads.  Finally find a great idea to write about … make sure the people investing in your company (the advertisers) approve of the message and/or pictures you publish.  They’re sort of like the boss who works from home, but somehow critiques all of your work.  Unfortunately this can produce the consequence of subtle censorship.  A highly talented writer may decide to just quash their true feelings or ideas just to get something published and not rankle with their “bosses.”  Some of these overlords can be mainly hands off, but some can be micromanagers.  It doesn’t matter if the company is big or small; there is no immunity for this.  A perfect example comes from our website.  A few years ago we published an article containing a picture of Angelina Jolie standing provocatively next to a horse.  There was absolutely no nudity in the picture, but because she was topless and next to an animal some of our “bosses” asked that the image be removed.  The picture was perfect for the article because it was about hot celebrities who are odd.  Removing that image ruined the whole article in my mind.  We are not a huge company, but our “bosses” decided to dictate the terms that day.  A huge, successful corporation like Facebook is also subject to “bosses.” Mark Zuckerberg may be a billionaire, but when he took his company public, he was instantly fitted with a whole crew of overseers (nearly all of whom will never even see the kind of money he banks on a daily basis).  Now several people with a fraction of the wealth and technical knowledge of FB’s creator can call shots that he may have to submit to.  I’m sure in Zuckerberg’s mind Facebook is no longer fun or free.

Almost no one writes for the money.  We write for the freedom of expression and the insatiable desire to share our ideas with the world.  I never want to write to appease a “boss.”  I don’t want to be subject to the whims of someone I will never see (who just sends directives via email).  I want to write for the public.  Although I know this is a pipe dream, I want writing to be completely free.

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