Two weeks later, and still there's some grousing about Babble's new Dad Channel. There's the usual "they're just throwing the dads a bone" complaint; yes, there is some validity to that, but lest we forget, Babble is a business. And here's the truth: when it comes to the parenting stuff, online or off, moms do most of the reading. They are the primary consumers of parent-writing. Will that change? I hope so. Enough's been written about "the new modern dad" and our involvement in raising our kids; it stand to reason that such involvement would necessitate going out and finding stuff written by and for dads. Can we as writing dads influence that change? Sure.
But I'm not so sure we will.
For of course when Babble launched its new site, there was grousing of a different - and unsurprising - sort. A few dadbloggers were upset because they weren't asked to contribute; trollish comments were made, wagons were circled, and we got a taste of the drama that many of us used to see as something exclusive to the momblogging community. So we've finally "arrived". Congrats, I suppose. I had an email exchange with a guy who's been in the dad space for a while, a friend who I admire and respect, who suggested that a place at the Babble table was seen by many as the brass ring. Of course it's not - if there is a brass ring for me, it'd be DadCentric getting Babble-level traffic. Is having a dad voice on a site like Babble a good thing for the dadblogging community? That's a question that only amateurs would ask.
I've been known to rant about the sorry state of Internet writing - particularly the dad-blog-o-sphere, where cliches, horrid grammar, and 1st grade-level punctuation seem to flourish. Of course, because we have a "community", and it's rude to take a dump on the street in front of your neighbor's house, I usually don't come out and say what I'm really thinking. But this has been gnawing at me for a while. (In fact, some of this post came from an email convo I had with a few of you last year.) So.
Blogging for most is a hobby. Me, I'm a Paid Professional, thanks to the good folks at Man Of The House and now (or, once again) Babble, and next month I'll see my first actual print article in a real magazine. As such I feel the need to keep the editors at bay. I don't like hearing that I forgot a comma here, or a semicolon there. That means more work for everyone, and really, who has time for that shit? But it's more than that. I think every serious writer feels compelled to respect the art AND the craft of it. I want to give you something that hits you in the head, in the heart, and in the guts, and I want to do that every time I hit the Publish button. (Am I successful? Eh, who knows.) And while I occasionally treat words, sentences and paragraphs like a jazz musician treats notes, lines and stanzas, I cringe every time I see a misspelled word or an improperly placed apostrophe. I don't take myself seriously, but I do take my writing seriously. That's why I get paid. I don't get paid much, but I'd like to think that I earn those checks.
The gnawing comes from this mentality that I'm not at all comfortable with, the idea that the dad-blog-o-sphere should be some sort of fraternity, where we all stick together and promote each other's stuff simply because we're dads and we write. There are many dadblogs out there that I'm thrilled to promote - you know who are, and I suspect you know why I'm so enthusiastic about what you do. (Ok, I'll tell you - it's because you're fucking talented.) There are dadblogs out there that I want to distance myself and my work from. Because - and this is a point of discussion, so please tell me if you disagree - I think that any writer worth his or her salt does not want to dilute his or her (hate this word, but I'll use it) brand by linking it to inferior writing. (Example: you won't see a gushing Cormac McCarthy blurb on the back of the latest Nicholas Sparks novel.) I don't claim to be a Great Writer - hell, I'm not even the best writer on my own website - but I've written some really good stuff, things that felt right and real, that were born of honest laughter or crushing sadness or fist-clenching anger.
You know why writers refer to their stuff as their "work"? Because it's work. It needs to be treated as such. And these days I find that I can't relate to others who don't operate at that level.
So, some advice. I don't care how big or small your readership is, if your blog is monetized or not - if you want to be treated like a professional, write like one. If you want a big audience, earn it. If you want to be one of the "lucky" few who gets paid to write, quit bitching about how unfair life is and stop thinking that the Internet owes you something and make your own luck. Does thinking like that make me a snob? I dunno. Am I the only one who feels this way? Y'know, for the sake of good writing, I hope not.