The Work, and Worth, of Writing

I’ve come to fervently believe that, especially as it pertains to the digital age, you get what you pay for. Many of us millennials, reaping the harvest of the emergence of the Internet, have been raised to expect much for free. The democratization of information that led to the “online writing economy” generated an ocean of free content, and free content has played and will continue to play an indelible part in the economic, social, and even intellectual transformation wrought by the Internet.

But, contrary to illusion, nothing is quite free. Advertising funds the overwhelming majority of the “free” internet. And as technology progresses, the competition to get more clicks on more ads and make more revenue starts to dictate online experience. Advertisements start to play automatically, filling the entire screen. “Clickbait,” genetically engineered to pique interest and offer as little as possible once the necessary click has been acquired, begins to dominate web channels. Sagging attention spans need reasons to keep clicking, so headlines are written to deliberately mislead. Mindlessness is the name of the game.

And why complain? After all–it’s free.

We live at a time when thoughtfulness is a premium good–one that costs much more than it generates. I believe that sincere intellectual and spiritual good is possible to foment via the internet, but I also believe that almost every digital trend of the last 10 years has made that task much harder. “Free” is constantly at odds with true, beautiful, and good. Whether we attribute that fact to the harsh realities of market economics, the greediness of capitalism, or sheer bad luck, the fact remains the same.

I love blogging. I love it because I love the intellectual labor that thinking, shaping, and saying demands, and because I love the way that blogging plugs me into the world of ideas in such a direct way. For the last few years I have tried to think deeply and seriously and Christianly about many different topics. I’m sure I’ve fallen short in one or all of those categories numerous times. But the practice is part of the pleasure. For all the dangers of blogging’s instantaneous demand for reaction, there’s also a virtue in the way it lets a writer return, again and again, to a question that demands renewed attention, fresh insight, and a better word.

But all this is work–real, time-consuming work. It’s not my source of income or my career. But it does require attention and detail and space and computers and internet connections and books and articles. And for the past year or so I’ve been thinking carefully about how the work inherent in my blogging should relate to my efforts to provide for a family, and to empower my future writing without the threats of intrusive ads or silly, click-begging content.

So I’m rolling out a personal Patreon. 

If you’re unsure what I mean by that, here’s the short story. Going forward, my Patreon account will allow readers who want to help support my work at this blog to do so with small, monthly donations. This is not a subscription and my blog is not being paywalled. As I explain on the page, there are indeed some exclusive perks to being a patron, but access to this blog is and will remain totally free.

I’m not looking to turn a major profit from my blogging or quit my day job (which I love!). As you’ll see, my suggested donation levels are very small. My only ambition is to connect directly with readers who find value in what I do here, and who are willing to spend $2 every month in helping me keep that value coming.

My Patreon offers 3 different tiers, each with a unique reward depending on how much is donated:

  • For $2 per month, you’ll get a new weekly email newsletter from me, with links to the week’s best writing, important stories in religion and culture, and some reflections on various topics that won’t be published here. You’ll also get access through Patreon to the member-only blog on the Patreon page, where I will be posting 1-2 times per week.
  • For $5 per month, you’ll get the newsletter and the access to the Patreon blog. Additionally, I’m offering some personal writing coaching. If you’re an aspiring writer who would like to talk about style, developing an argument, best practices, how to pitch to editors, etc, I would love to offer you a few weeks’ worth of help.
  • For $10 per month, you’ll get all the above. I’ve also offered a special perk aimed specifically at those who want to promote their own book or writing on my blog. If you think my readers would like to know about what you do or what you think, I’ll edit and publish a 500-word post by you at my blog.

Let me say again: This blog is not becoming subscriber-only. You can choose not to donate anything, and this blog will still be around for you.

But: If you’ve been helped by this space, if you’ve found value in the kind of things I think about and say on this blog, I hope you’ll consider partnering with me in this way. Beginning now, at the end of every post, and in the sidebar to your right, I’ll be posting a link that will take you to my Patreon page. I hope you won’t find this intrusive. It’s all in the interest of, well, making blogging great again.

By Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.