Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writing for Suite 101: My Guilty Pleasure

There are always people out there telling you what you should and shouldn't do as a writer. When I first started out new writers were criticized for writing for free. If we all stuck to that model now, most of our work would never see the light of day. Some will tell you never to pay for anything related to submissions, but then you 'd limit yourself to contests that carry little prestige and even less in prizes.

A while back I wrote about my experiences with a pay-per-click site, and how some writers think they are a bad idea. Well, bad or not, I've decided to go back to writing for Suite 101 and I am loving it. No, writing for pay-per-clicks will probably not get me a job with The New York Times or maybe not even with my community newspaper, and despite anomalies like the Suite writer who made almost $5,000 in one month, it probably won't put my daughter through grad school or even pay my grocery bill–-at least not the topics I write about. What it does get me is the opportunity to write on subjects I love but for which I do not have a "platform" as they call it in the business, and the chance to earn a few dollars while I'm at it.

When I delve into a subject, I go deep. While I never advanced beyond a BA in History, my studies imbued me with a need to go well beyond the surface. What started 10 years ago with Mari Sandoz's biography of Crazy Horse has grown into several hundred books on, not just American Indian and US Western History, but an understanding of current issues and the ability to argue some of the finer points of American Indian Law––that's what happens when you cross a wannabe historian with a wannabe lawyer. I've written book reviews for scholarly journals like Montana, the Magazine of Western History (which did feel pretty cool), but with no advanced degree or teaching position at a university, I'm not likely to get much published on that subject. That's why I took up writing on Native American/First Nations History  on Suite a few years ago.

Unfortunately the 10 article per month requirement for a Feature Writer (one who writes for and maintains the topic site) became onerous, especially for a meticulous researcher and fact checker like myself. Plus, even my deep well began to run dry. However, now Suite has something called a Contributing Writer. Not only are the production requirements less but CWs can contribute to any topic, meaning I can also write about writing and publishing–-think I know a wee bit about that––politics, healthcare, running a small business or any other topic on which I have something of value to contribute.

For me, Suite fills several needs:

  • My need to write and express myself on various topics.
  • My need to learn, because I always learn when I am researching details for an article.
  • My need to be read, because otherwise what is the point of writing.
Maybe with more articles up on topics of greater interest, my earnings will increase too, but really the pittance I make is icing on the cake. I know that drives some professional freelancers nuts, and I won't even try to defend it except to say, I love it. I'm hooked, and others can jump up and down and scream until they are blue in the face.

Call it my guilty pleasure.

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