by Ramona DeFelice Long
First was a cute little girl outside the Acme. As soon as I spotted her, I swerved sharply to the left and headed for the carts. I did a 180 with my basket but the little minx snuck up behind me.
She rattled a can covered in crayon drawings and said, “Can you donate to my cheerleading camp?”
I know, I know. It’s better to shake a pom-pom than join a flash mob. But it irked me that behind the kid sat Dad, yakking on his cell phone while his daughter accosted strangers for money. She didn’t offer to wash my car or make me a balloon animal. She just held out the can.
I politely declined--and was rewarded with a look of outrage. Get used to it, I wanted to tell her. In real life, you don’t get stuff just by asking.
The next day, it happened at the drug store. Two adorable little boys, again with the decorated can.
“Soccer camp! We’re going to soccer camp! Can you help us out?”
A watchful Mom watched as I said, “Sorry, boys, not today.” This was a bit misleading, as it implied I’d donate on another day. Not gonna happen. But Mom gave me a smile, which was compounded by the boys’ “Thank you, anyway, ma’am, and have a nice day!” and I was hit with a guilt blast. If they had cried, or called me a name, I’d have felt less like an evil troll. But noooo, Soccer Boys had to be adorable AND polite.
Call me Ramona Grumpy-Pants, but I can’t bring myself to encourage kids out begging . It’s not because anti-cheerleading/soccer camp. It’s because I think it sends a bad message. Offer me some overpriced wrapping paper. Dangle a box of Thin Mints in front of me. Then we might do business. Set up a lemonade stand, and I’ll empty out my wallet.
But just because you ask? Sorry.
So what does that have to do with writing? Not long ago, I read a blog post. It was a helpful post, and I was ready to show my support by commenting or sharing or following, but then I noticed the Donate button at the bottom.
Donate? To a blogger? There are professional bloggers, but those folks earn income through advertising or subscribers. Not by the casual reader. And not by clicking a direct link to your PayPal account.
Understand, I like free money as much as the next guy. I’ve been the lucky recipient of state fellowships and professional organization grants. I write posts that--hopefully--aid writers. Doing so cuts into my earning time. As a matter of fact, I’m losing money right now. (Whoosh! There went five dollars.)
Some writers advocate never working for free. Ever. I think this is nonsense. Parents are expected to volunteer at their kids’ schools, and I think the same applies to writers. We have an obligation to give back to the writing community. I’ve done free workshops at schools and book fairs. I mentored a teen book group for two years--I even provided pizza, on my nickel. The last few months, I’ve been facilitating Free Writes at the public library. (Wheee, a tenner just whizzed by!)
Am I special? Not at all. Every writer reading this can come up with their own list of freebies.
However…do I edit for free? Nope. Editing is my primary skill, my income-generator. That I hold near and dear, and I charge for it.
Where does that leave something like blogging? Sometimes my posts are rambling nonsense. (That sentence was worth, what? A nickel? A quarter, tops?) But there are times I share concrete how-to information that, in theory, I could sell. Instead, I post it here, or on my personal blog, or elsewhere where it can be read without charge. I choose to give it away, maybe to promote myself, maybe to hone my writing skills, maybe to make you all like me. I’m not going to ask to be paid for what I choose to do. It feels too much like holding out a can in front of the grocery store.
Am I being grumpy? Is requesting a donation savvy and smart? Am I the only one who finds a DONATE button a bit…distasteful?
What is your opinion? Is requesting a donation online the latest, greatest, literary cash cow, and I am missing out?