Writing Your Way to the Top

There was a time when you could create an entire writing career out of blue sky, and get paid for it. I know, because I did it.

Now, before you get all excited and think “wow, this guy is cooooool,” let’s sit down. Yes, I wrote a ton of articles – over 200 on planetary science alone- and every one of them got published by someone other than me, but, no, it wasn’t a paying career.

Here’s a story to tell your grandkids, although, if your kids turn out to be like mine, you’ll have to pay them to read your stuff. It’s a particularly sore subject with me because my mom was a newspaper columnist, but I seldom read her stuff. And now she’s gone, and so is her work.

Wow. That’s a downer.

Anyway, back in the day, about a dozen years ago, when the Interweb was just bursting at the seams, screaming for content, it was a crazy time to be a writer.

You could write just about anything, from recipes to rocket science, and somebody would publish it. Minimal research required, just scratch out 500 words that made sense, and, boom, you’re published.

See, I had already made a career out of doing anything other than writing – sales, management, customer service, voice over. I was a success at none of them, because really, well, you’re a writer, you know how it goes. The faster you run from what you are, the sooner it catches up.

This was during the Great Recession, and I found this crazy publishing goldmine that would pay me to write. Not a lot, mind you. Like $1.73 for a piece on the moons of Jupiter. But, hey, a dozen of those a week, and, little by little, the funds add up.

Okay, put down that calculator. They didn’t add up very far. I was raking in, pulling down, scoring maybe a whopping hundred a month. My wife was not thrilled.

But, it was a wonderful time. I was the Chief Science Correspondent for Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties on EScience. I had an actual following on Affiliated Content and a couple of other sites. If I could think of it, and package it well, it would get published.

Eventually it became clear to the many websites that churnalism – taking somebody else’s research, clinking it together with another writer’s article, and adding a little spin to it – didn’t really make good content. The marketing model for those many publishing sites didn’t bear close scrutiny, and that golden era evaporated overnight as site after site dried up and blew away.

In their place came sites like eHow and my own Skippity Whistles. Well researched, we illustrated articles focused on specific topics.

Ah, but those were heady days, huh? Explaining to my wife how, after getting over 350 articles published, I really only had $75 to show for it, I was somehow advancing my career.

Actually, I did advance my career, but that is not the point of this post. Ask me about the Gentry Eagle and I’ll tell you another story.

Neither is the point of this piece to apologize to my mom for not reading her stuff, although I do feel terrible about that.

The point was to tell you about a crazy time when you could write what you want and get it published and maybe make a few pennies for it.

Not much of a point, huh?

No apologies here, cap’n. You’ll have to go next door for that…

Author: John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as Smashwords.com.

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