Sunday, June 7, 2015

Money does stuff to people


When my dear Dad's father died (I was fourteen at the time), he left a fairly substantial amount of money to all of my father's siblings, but left nothing to my Dad. We have no idea why. My Dad was the firstborn and his mother died when he was just six weeks' old. Therefore, his siblings are all half-siblings, born from another woman. My Dad always maintained that his first step-mother (there were a couple over the years) didn't like him. That's the only reason we could come up with for his father leaving him out of his Will. Perhaps she was more influential than we realised?

In any case, my Dad decided to appeal his father's Will. All his siblings had to do was sign an agreement to relinquish a small amount of their inheritance to my Dad so that all the siblings (including my father) would end up with an equal share. However, only two of his five siblings agreed to sign the documents, with only one sending my Dad a cheque for her share (unprompted). 

Nice, huh?

Not surprisingly, my Dad eventually dropped the appeal because it was too upsetting. I remember as a young teenager, and knowing what had happened, despising my father's siblings who didn't sign over their share. And although I hardly knew my grandfather (he lived out of Perth, so we didn't see him often), I had all but decided he was a waste of my thinking time.

My anger dissipated over the years; no use crying over spilt milk and all that, and who really knows why my grandfather did what he did - perhaps he suffered dementia like my Dad did in the end, and someone took advantage of that? Besides, my Dad had a wonderful life regardless of his family members' actions. However, my Dad's experience did teach me a very important life lesson: money can bring out the worst in people. 

When I first started blogging in late 2009, blogging seemed to be all about the writing, sharing and connecting with a creative, supportive community (in Australia, anyway). Although it is still about that, by early 2011, PR companies had started to tentatively tip their toes in the blogosphere pool as a potential platform to promote their products, and blogging changed a bit. Suddenly bloggers (including myself) were receiving free products and invitations to blog-related events. Some of us were being offered to fly interstate and overseas. All of these events were highly publicised on Twitter and Facebook and suddenly bloggers became conscious that some were being invited to events and some weren't. They also discovered that some bloggers were being paid to write posts, whilst others were offered baked goods vouchers instead for their carefully formed words.

Suddenly, a lot of jealousy and 'why not me?' started rearing its ugly head in the blogosphere. Bloggers became more critical of each other and wrote about cliques and 'top bloggers' and started philosophising about the supposed hierarchy in the blogosphere. Blog posts about 'integrity' and 'selling out' became commonplace. Some bloggers even started to hesitate to jump on Twitter about being at an event because they 'might offend someone'.

Some bloggers, I feel, got a bit - dare I say it - greedy. I'd see blatant 'hints' for goods on Twitter and it would make me cringe. Goody bags were sometimes, well, just not good enough. And although I completely agree that bloggers shouldn't be offered peanuts for their writing - bloggers have worth and can be influential - I have to admit some blogger's derogatory comments about the lack of cash being thrown their way came over all a bit too Linda Evangelista for my liking. It felt as though blogging started to become more about how much money could be made from having a blog, rather than about the writing.

See how money changed it?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with bloggers choosing to monetise their blog, write sponsored posts, accept free gifts or attend events. Nothing at all. It's all about choice, and good luck to all those that set out to do that. And it is most certainly not a deliberate kick in the face to other bloggers when bloggers highlight what products they've received or events they have attended on their blogs, Twitter or Facebook. That's why they were given the product/invited to the event in the first place. Not just for fun, but to promote it.

Mummy Mayhem became one of those blogs. I never intended it to be - it was supposed to be my creative outlet. Something just for me; a platform where I could share my thoughts and opinions (mostly on parenting) and just write. Although I found it fun in the beginning when companies started sending me stuff and inviting me to events, I soon realised the price I paid to accept the products/attend the events. In short, it became hard work, and I found myself spending way too much time writing blog posts about products, which then led to me feeling too pushed for time, as well as less enthusiastic, to write in general. I felt backed in to a corner, and the only way out, I concluded, was to finish up my blog and reassess what I really wanted to do with my writing.

More than words was created as a site where I could purely write - about anything. Importantly, I chose not to monetise it, because I didn't want to experience the restrictions and limitations I felt I allowed MM to place on me. Although I don't get offered nearly as many freebies anymore, or to write posts to promote something, I turn any such offers down because I just want the freedom to write whatever I like, and I write without considering what might be considered interesting or popular. (Although, admittedly, it was really challenging to turn down a free coffee machine once. I LOVE coffee!) Quite frankly, it's all about me now, and I make no apologies for that. Essentially, on this site, I've returned to the original reason I started blogging: to write.

I'm not even close to considering myself any sort of blogging expert, but if there's one piece advice I could give to new bloggers, it would be to not allow money to shape your blog. Don't presume your own worth based on what products you do, or don't receive. If you want to build a 'brand', go right ahead and build it. Embrace that, and don't let posts about 'selling out' put you off. Just do what feels right for you.

But if you just want to write? Then just write. Don't worry about what's going on around you. Don't think for a second that you are somehow less of a blogger because you don't choose to turn your blog in to a or the like.

Your blog doesn't have to be anything. Just yours.