Thursday, November 22, 2007

Changing Perspectives

Don’t expect to see much activity on the live Chip Dale monitor today. The subdermal tracking device has been setting off car alarms all morning so I’m restricted to the flat until Gabby can contact her supplier in the Romanian government and find out how to jam the frequency. The confinement has given me time to reflect on the exciting times I shared with Trixy. How we laughed when I got my thong caught in the heel of her shoe as we fled Bangor through the back gardens of Holyhead Road! I also think that marriage has left me a changed man. And I don’t just mean in the sense of my now being the biggest emitter of radio waves in the North Wales region.

The thought came to me this morning as I found myself browsing the increasingly troubled musings of Richard Madeley. The man has a monster of an ego but I think he occasionally serves a purpose. This morning, that purpose was in directing my attention to Why That’s Delightful, the comprehensively mad blog by Graham Lineham, who will be forever blessed (perhaps even cursed) as being known as one of the writers of ‘Father Ted’. The latest post is a gem and goes down as one of my favourite YouTube finds.

Harlan Ellison has written many science-fiction short stories, books for teenagers, and TV shows, though I can’t, honestly, ever recollect reading anything of his. His rant touches upon one of the truths of modern life as a writer, and indeed, as a blogger. I’ve often been contacted by people in the media asking me to do something for them, whether it’s give an interview or write a brief snippet for something they’re doing. What’s striking is that, every time, they don’t mention money.

‘Hi Chip,’ begins an email. ‘Would you give us a quote about your life as a top stripper in Wales?’

Or the phone will go. ‘Chip. We loved the thing you wrote about pineapple chunks and the guide dog. Could we reprint it in our next magazine?’

At other times, I’ve seen my wisdom crop up in newspapers, quoted in full, with the barest indication as to who said it. I’ve even seen my pictures used in the media without my permission. Blogging is the problem. The media treats us as though we’re easy filler for their papers, shows, websites. Many of us produce quality content for no money. It's insane!

Since I opened this blog in January, I’ve written 345 posts. If each post is, on average, 500 words long, then that would make this blog 122,000 words long, or as big as a thickish novel. Actually, many of my posts are more like 1000-2000 words long (some even longer) and the total word count for this blog is actually over 180,000 words. The point is, I’ve not earned a penny from all this effort. That’s like my having written two comic novels in the last year – or what Jeremy Clarkson or Billy Bryson write between them. Perhaps you could argue that there’s still fewer laughs. I’d hope there have been more. What would a serious bad writer expect to profit from a novel? A thousand pounds? Two thousand? I don't know but this blog has earned me $9.88 from Google ads. So that's 180,000 words written for $9.88, or about 0.002 pence per word.

So I gave a loud cheer when I heard Harlan Ellison’s rant. I've listened to it ten times now and it makes me smile and cry in about equal measure because there’s a degree of self-recognition there too. If I ever want to consider myself a professional writer, perhaps I should give up blogging. Why should I write for nothing other than my own amusement? As much as I enjoy writing about my adventures, isn’t it just foolish to do it for nothing? I’d ask anybody reading this the same question that Harlan Ellison asked the woman who rang him up: would you work for nothing? And isn’t this a failure of blogs? Doesn’t it make writing look easy? Doesn’t it devalue the very thing that so many of us are trying to accomplish?

[Update: The video is from a documentary about Ellison called 'Dreams With Sharp Teeth', which has leapt to the top of the list of things I want to see. The great thing about books is that you can go years believing you've read all the writers who deserve to be read yet I now find myself browsing Amazon for an apparently significant writer I hadn't heard of before today. And the man seems to be my kind of madman. He sits at his typewriter wearing silly hats, for Christsake! That almost beats writing in a thong.]


Richard Madeley said...

180,000? You've got me beat, Chip. I've written a mere 58,000 words on my blog but that's only since July.

elberry said...

Good clip, i like his attitude. While i write mainly because i enjoy it (and also because i know i feel shit if i don't write for a while), it's as absurd to ask a writer to speak or write for free as it would be to ask a sculptor to work for 6 months on a statue without payment. True we don't need physical materials beyond pen & paper, or a computer, but a recent study reveals that - on average - writers need to kill 1 chav per 20 pages, which is fine if you're doing short stories, but not so great when you're struggling with a 200,000 word masterpiece and the police are beginning to see a pattern in the recent spate of chav murders. Men like Dostoevsky and Proust were most adroit with their homicides, but we live in an age less amenable to serial murders.

elberry said...

Just rewatched this clip, this guy is my frigging hero, not many people can swear like that, with elan, timing, passion.