$40,000 is a lot of food

I happened to catch part of an episode of Oprah last week. She was talking to Heather Armstrong, star of super-popular mommy blog Dooce, about the difficulties of being a mother. About her surprisingly interesting life. And about how she does what she does, which, essentially, is blogging for a paycheck.

This is what I took away: Heather Armstrong enjoys what she does. The freedoms and the stresses of constantly documenting life.

Oh, and she makes $40,000 a month through her blog. A month.

My question: Why can’t I make money doing this?

The answer: Stubbornness.

In terms of influence, the two sites can’t be compared equally. After all, Dooce and Black Marks on Wood Pulp are two completely different animals. Dooce has been propped up by 8 years of loyalty, bumped first by a national story about being fired for blogging and continued through the years by Armstrong’s stories of post-partum depression. It’s become the most read blog on the Internet. It’s reach alone dwarfs anything I could possibly keep up with.

Black Marks on Wood Pulp is just me, blah blah blahing about deeply introspective and self-serving narratives.

But the real concern is that, through the life of this blog, I’ve never considered it prudent to ask for more than a passing attention. Attention for my words and my thoughts, to serve as a sounding board for whatever insecurities and random book thoughts I might have.

Which makes it feel disingenuous to put advertising on my site. Like I’m betraying the trust of my readers. Like I’m stooping to the lowest common denominator.

Even more, it feels as if I’m touting my importance, as if I’m saying, “I am important enough to be sponsored.”

Yet, here I am, contemplating extra income for something I already do. Something I truly enjoy. Monetizing my hobby, as I’ve been lucky enough to do with photography (here and there, at least.)

I don’t have the answer.

I’ll never be at Dooce’s level. I don’t have enough drama in my life, frankly. But until that point, you probably still won’t see ads on Black Marks on Wood Pulp, despite an assurance from several friends and family members that it won’t harm anything. That, while I’ll never be making $40,000 a month, it wouldn’t hurt to bring in an extra $100 bucks every few months. That I’m giving away a talent, refusing to cash in, not giving myself enough credit.

I’d like to say I’m staying ad free because I’m fighting the norm, refusing to put a price on art, saving my readers from the humiliation of seeing tummy tuck and credit report banner ads.

I’d be lying. The real reason I haven’t put a price on Black Marks on Wood Pulp isn’t solely due to integrity or values. It’s because I’m too scared of offending my readers, tied to the vocal minority that will call it “selling out.”

It’s because I’m too afraid to leap, not knowing who would still be around to catch me if I fell too far.

This was lovingly handwritten on July 9th, 2009