Thursday, January 10, 2008

Coming Soon: A 12 Step Program for Bloggers

My name is Jayne Lyn Stahl
and I'm a blogaholic.

The omnipotent "they" often say that the first step in recovery is acknowledging that there is a problem. When, seven plus years ago, I quit smoking, it occurred to me I could transfer my hand to mouth addiction to the keyboard, so I went out, and bought my first SONY laptop. As for any other rapacious residual cravings, there wasn't a gentleman in my life, at the time, who was ready, willing, and able to sacrifice at the altar of my constant urgings.

As for the laptop, it was love at first sight. The Vaio was a perfect fit in the corner of the desk, inconspicuous as a corn flake on a beige rug, and awe-inspiring as the sun shining through a chorus of clouds. This innocuous piece of scrap metal contained a parallel universe for me, and one which would transport me away from the rapid pulse high of nicotine and to a portable planet.

From the first, when I most missed that early morning cigarette, which I enjoyed for more than thirty years (smoking as much as three packs of cigarettes a day, at one point), I sat glued to the magical, often dusty, screen, hoping that even the muse would learn to conform to Microsoft Word formatting.

A few years later, when a friend mentioned blogging, I thought about it a bit, and then said "What, write for free? Would James Joyce do that? William Butler Yeats? How about Arthur Rimbaud, or Hemingway? Would Ernest Hemingway write for free?" Walt Whitman would; in fact, Whitman would probably have, on average, three to five posts a day on every opinion site on the Internet. He'd be, arguably, more of a netslave than me. Oscar Wilde, too, I suspect, though Oscar was, after all, more down to earth --that was his fall; read "De Profundis," if you haven't already.

But, apart from Whitman and, maybe, Allen Ginsberg, what serious writer would work for free, I wondered. Well, as a largely ignored, and hugely underpublished poet, the immediate gratification, knowledge that hundreds read me, ego stroke out of seeing my face on a Web page all comes to be seen as a kind of payment, even if it's not cash. And, more importantly, one likes to think that what one has to say may even turn a head or two besides, of course, one's own.

Who'd have thought that I'd become addicted, several years later, not merely to the keyboard, but to writing not for one blog, but for every conceivable Web site that would have me.

The conundrum: I haven't been able to focus on serious writing and, more to the point, I sit and watch as a mountain of unpaid bills collect on my kitchen table where, each day, I awake with the honorable intention of paying them, and instead rush off to the desk, and dusk, to do what I'm doing now. What is infinitely more vexing is the fact that virtually every blog for whom I write is making tons of money in advertising revenue, all except, of course, my own.

Since childhood, my new year's resolution has been never to make new year resolutions, but this year is an exception. My resolution, this year, is to devise a 12 step program for me, and other fellow blogaholics who want to either return to serious writing, get paid for soapbox writing, or both.

Stay tuned, am in the process of formulating one, so you'll see a 12 step program posted here soon enough. But, in the meantime, think about this: Karl Marx didn't live long enough to see the technological revolution, and the professional blogosphere, which rewards publishers, not writers, with advertising revenue, or he'd agree that exploitation of labor is a collaborative effort.