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HubPages - my drug

Updated on October 11, 2011

Hello. How've you been? I've been away, though not literally, just figuratively ... although I've been away from HubPages, so technically is that literally or figuratively, realistically speaking? Mmm, adverbs are not my strong point ... grammatically.

But I've been busy, being a single parent temporarily, and proofreading busily. And I've just discovered that I have time for a break and a write and a coffee to help me find my own mind again. What joy to discover that these two hours are my own. In a few minutes I will work on the book that I've had to neglect for the past fortnight. But what did I feel the desperate need to do before I got down to that serious business? I had to write a hub. Well, I thought that in this hub I would share with you a letter I wrote, but never sent. It was in response to an article that I read in a magazine. I did intend to submit it, but it got lost under a pile of papers, and now it seems too late to respond to something that was published months ago. But that's fine, as it means I can 'hub' it.

The letter:

'I have just read Ms ____’s article on internet content sites, and must say that I found it to be very disappointing. I had expected to find some balance in the article, for there to be some input from some of the excellent writers who choose to use sites such as HubPages for taking their first tentative steps into a more public arena. But all I found was a very one-sided argument in which a series of conclusions were reached that had been jumped to from quite a distance. It seemed as though Ms ____ had already decided what she wanted to write before she undertook her research for the article.

The article seemed mainly to criticise the poor pay of these sites, and jumped very quickly to an incorrect assumption that the writing there "isn’t real writing!" Ms ____ seems to have missed the real reason for so many aspiring writers choosing to stay with these sites, despite the poor financial return – she has missed what is going on under the surface. As she mentioned at the beginning of the piece, "if someone wants to find out more about a particular subject then an internet search engine, such as Google, is often the first port of call"; this applies for those who wish to learn more about writing online, or freelance writing. Such a search will rank HubPages, Suite 101 and Demand Media at the top of the list.

Now, an aspiring writer, with no mentor, no guidance, no advice on how to break into the writing market (me, for instance) will squeal with joy at finding such a site, where she is promised pay for her words and where she can retain ownership of her work; she will jump on that bandwagon willingly. I will admit that there is disappointment for a short time, when that writer, like thousands of others before her, quickly has the realisation that cheques will not be forthcoming and that she will not rocket to fame and stardom. But she finds something of greater value instead: she finds a writing community, where fellow site members are more than willing to offer praise (not to be underestimated in its value), criticism (we all know the value of good criticism) and advice.

I use HubPages (you might have guessed), and have been a member there for over eight months. I have made a grand total of 81p so far, which may well take over a decade to grow into the $60 necessary to generate a cheque. Oh well, I’d better leave HubPages then, since it’s not going to provide me with real income. But this is the point that Ms ____ has missed – we’re not completely naïve on HubPages, we know that we’re never going to make our writing profitable there, and that’s why we use it purely as a place to practise our skills, to hone our talents, and to read and be inspired by the work of others.

Ms ____ is quite right when she says "don’t expect to boose your CV or credibility with editors". Most of us are well aware of the limits of these sites already, so Ms ____ has not told us anything we did not already know. But she is quite wrong when she suggests that a writer will not "gain much in the way of real writing experience". She seems to have forgotten that we all must begin somewhere, and that is what content sites really offer – a place to start. I have found my voice on HubPages, and have been able to use the opportunity to experiment with it, and make adjustments to it. And far from writing for a machine, I write for people, for my followers, and for myself. I tag my articles where appropriate, but I never write with tags and keywords in mind. The story comes first. I do not write with the intention of providing quantity in terms of numbers of articles, but I wait patiently for a good idea to present itself to me.

We are not freelance writers yet, but content sites give us the confidence to try, and provide us with "friends" who can give advice on where to go next.

I felt it was important to write this letter, in the hopes that you might print a little of it and provide balance to this argument. Ms ____'s article would certainly have deterred me from writing on a content site had I not already done so; that would have been a great shame since I would have missed out on learning so much about my own writing. It is sometimes a little foolish to dismiss something out of hand, just because it does not work for you. If these sites are not the place to go to learn lessons in "real writing", perhaps a more positive article might have told us where we might go instead.

I have never read your magazine before, so I am aware that I have missed some articles on this subject. But I noticed the editor’s comment saying that such articles had been featured reluctantly. Shame, because these sites can only improve if they are used by good writers and are discussed in an open forum, and not tucked away in a corner like the embarrassing relative at a Christmas party.'

So, I thought it was quite interesting to discover how shallow I am, that I feel the need to recycle a quick bit of writing (if you can really call a letter proper writing, in the sense we literary types mean it - I am sniggering at my own pretentiousness) for the almost instant gratification of having my dearest and most loyal HubFriends pop in and tell me how marvellous I am and how great my writing is ... hoards of them; watch them come, in their hundreds ... figuratively.

What kind of writer am I that I cannot quietly scribble away until my manuscript is done, and then wait a further two or three years for it to be accepted and published and adored? I am obviously more needy than I thought (and so, possibly, are you!).


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