Why Online Writing Can Improve a Writer's Mental Health
I really hate seeming like a spokesperson. I didn’t get into writing so I could sell people products (other than the story I was telling). So I try to stay away from overly-promotional hubs. I also don’t want to look like a brown-noser by senselessly praising the hand that feeds. (Although technically I haven’t been ‘fed’ by any online sources yet. I haven’t reached a payout and my writing philosophy by nature doesn’t generate much revenue.) But, having said all that, the act of writing and posting articles is very helpful to a writer’s mental health. I will explain below.
It is important to note during this article that other online publication websites could also result in a similar sense of satisfaction and self worth. I’m only focusing on hubpages because it has been the one that I liked best and has worked the smoothest.
***Notice: While the purpose of this article is to stress the mental benefits of writing for HubPages, it does not, necessarily, endorse the current state of online writing. As a hobby sites like HubPages can be immensely satisfying, but as soon as you try to make it into reliable income, you are in store for a long uphill battle, that could make you quickly hate the whole system.
Reason 1: Mini Publication
Technically what you post on HubPages counts as legitimate publishing, but I call it mini publication because I still intend to make it in print publications which require a much harsher selection process and much heavier editing. But the trouble with print publishing is that it isn’t an overnight venture. You have to spend months or years (for a book) writing and editing to make sure it is perfect. Then, after that, you have to play the waiting game as you submit it to editors, agents and publishers. If you’re lucky it will get picked up, if not you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. While I think the payoff in this scenario is higher, it is a huge test of patience.
What HubPages allows for with its Mini Publication is instant gratification. Each article is considerably shorter than print publications (I write books, but I suppose if you write print articles they’re about the same) and you don’t need to do as much editing (although I would advise that some editing goes a long way). Now, when I say instant gratification, I’m not implying that all writer’s need constant encouragement (though we do appreciate it), but rather when you spend upwards of seven years writing a book, it can feel very good to actually have a finished product posted for someone to read. In the past, for someone like me, I would submit short stories while trying to finish my book. These short stories would be small accomplishments and sources of income. However, since I suck at writing short stories, I have turned to HubPages instead. I know that there are some writers who want to keep their work to themselves but for those of us looking to get published, we WANT to be read. And this form of Mini Publication is a great way to make things happen while you’re trying to reach your larger goals.
Reason 2: Feedback and Fans
Not all of us have editors just waiting around for us to finish our next project. Feedback is important when ever you want edits or just a second opinion. While the majority of general feedback you get on a hub will be people thanking you or saying you did a good job, if you specifically ask for help with editing or story elements, then there are plenty in the community who are more than happy to step up to the plate. When I personally read a hub, I’m assuming the author wrote it the way they intended so giving them edits would probably be rude. But if you, as the author, make sure to specify what you need, then your comments will reflect that request. But that isn’t to say that the general feedback is bad. I’ve written a number of how-to hubs where I’ve gotten feedback from people who have successfully done what I was talking about. It is very gratifying to know that you’ve helped someone in an area you once struggled in.
Fans, or Followers, are the people who like your writing enough to ‘favorite’ you, for lack of a better word. What this means is that every time you publish a hub they get a notification in their email. This feature is purely for a writer’s ego, though like Mini Publication, it gives you the sense of print publication but on a smaller scale. There you would probably have a larger fan base (again, I write books) and here you can see the number of fans and the comments of those who keep up with your articles.
Reason 3: Complete Creative Freedom and Your Own Deadlines
I suppose saying that you have complete creative freedom on HubPages isn’t entirely accurate. You can’t post anything pornographic and you’ll probably get in hot water if you use curse words. But where you do have complete freedom is in what you write about. Anything from hard boiling an egg to building a rocket ship. I wrote a whole article about the various things one could write about, but even that barely scratched the surface. This creative freedom is so important because this is one of the only writing mediums where you can write exclusively what you want to write. You don’t have anyone breathing down your neck about what you ‘have’ to write next. You haven’t been branded as an author of one genre, so you can jump all over the place. And you can do it however fast or slow you want to. There are some authors on HubPages who make it their business to make their hubs popular. This process requires a great deal of internet-savvy skills. You would need to keep up with search trends, keywords and sheer quantity of content. I personally don’t like this method, but there in lies the advantage of this medium; they can write their cash cow articles and I can write my personal interest articles. Neither of us are penalized for writing what we want to write. And in that regard, HubPages does excel over several other internet writing sites. Some require that you write a specific kind of article and if it doesn’t adhere to that type, it is removed, regardless of how well it is written.
And as for deadlines, it is always good for revenue to keep active, but this article isn’t about making money, it’s about healthy practices for writers. If you aren’t too concerned about the money aspect, you can post at your leisure. Two today, and one next week. None today, and eight next week. Twelve today and twelve next week, etc. Not having to worry about deadlines is a major relief, trust me.
Reason 4: Your Own Portfolio and Getting Noticed
One of the nice things about having multiple writing pieces in one place is that you’ve just created an online portfolio for yourself. One that can be used when applying for a job (it also shows you’re being active). I’m not an employer so I can’t say how much it would help you out, but it’s one of those things where it’s probably better to have it than not have it.
There is also the chance, since your work is available online, that someone will stumble across it and like your style. It could lead to a compliment, a writing project, or even a job. I was approached to write a review for a website when someone discovered one of my hubs. Unfortunately they never responded to my email, but it opened up the possibility that people would find and read my articles and, potentially, want my help.
Reason 5: Visual Representation
Maybe I’m alone, but when I look at a text document on my computer or my notebook, or something I’ve printed, I really don’t see it the way I want it to be. For example, I would love nothing more than to hold my book in my hands with a hard cover, a book jacket and a synopsis. Sure I could print out the pages, make my own cover and form some semblance of a book, but it wouldn’t be the same, it wouldn’t be real. HubPages allows you to compile your articles, which are real, into a visual that actually looks like other published articles. You can see what the article is supposed to look like and you can control where the pictures go and how many there are. I was amazed by how well my graphic design articles came together when the tutorial pictures were added. It can be very satisfying. And in this case you actually have more control than other mediums. When you write for a magazine you don’t necessarily have control over where the pictures will go and what advertisements will be around it. And with a book, you may have to fight to get a cover that you agree with. But HubPages gives you total control, with the exception of the randomized ads. Those can kind of screw up your layout, so be aware of them.
While you aren’t required to use any pictures with your articles, it really helps to break up the wall of text and give your reader something to look at. Plus it helps identify each individual article as opposed to all of them having your profile picture as the default thumbnail. There are a couple of options you have when you want to post pictures. You can use your own personal photos. You can design something from scratch or you can use stock photos. I’m a huge advocate of stock photos. If you’re unfamiliar, stock photos are images that you can purchase (in some cases there are free ones) and use royalty free. A great deal of internet advertisements use stock photos. So when you see that young college girl going off to ABCUniversity, chances are she’s a model who has never even heard of that college. You probably already knew this about advertisements, but with websites like istockphoto, gettyimages, and shutterstock you can get your own stock photos and use them in conjunction with your articles. Every image I’ve used in my articles, that I didn’t create myself, is a stock photo.
Reason 6: And, in some cases, Money
I’m going to start this section by admitting flat out that I don’t make much money on HubPages. (If you’ve read any of my other articles, this will come as no surprise.) I will be lucky to reach the halfway point of my payout by the time my first year draws to a close. This is because I don’t publish hubs very often nor do I load them up with keywords. But I do enjoy the thought that I will eventually make some amount of money from it. Honestly I probably wouldn’t be here if money wasn’t involved. I just love the idea of my writing making money for me when I’m not at the computer. But anyway, as writers we should be paid for our writing. It’s not a very stable profession and we tend to get underpaid, so if you’re using HubPages as a hobby, like I am, it’s nice to know that your hobby is working for you.
And so we come full circle on the idea that online writing (in particular HubPages) is good for your mental health as a writer. It allows you to publish material that people can read and become fans of. It gives you the freedom to write what you want, while at the same time providing an extra checkmark on a resume and some long-winded pocket change. These are all things, I believe, that we need as writers to reassure us that what we are doing isn’t pointless. Ideally we’d all probably like to be in print or to be involved in a steady writing job, but for a lot of us that isn’t going to be a reality any time soon. And HubPages can supplement that reality quite efficiently.