Writing To Pay The Rent

This isn’t just about writing for income, and I will say that right at the beginning so no one is confused. But it is going to touch on that topic.

When I first arrived on the blogging scene, I really didn’t know what it was all about, but many who were beginning to blog at the same time had a much more concrete view of what the purpose of their writing would be. Many of those writers/bloggers were inspired by a man named Hugh Hewitt to begin their blogs with the view to change people’s world views. I should amend that to say “Christian and conservative” writers and bloggers. The people of liberal politics had long seen the value in using media to persuade people’s thinking.

But whether bloggers of that time were convinced by a specific person, or of the many who had chanced upon this new door to influence, many of us were of the mind that our writing could “make a change for good”. I know that was always a powerful motivation for me.

It still is, but blogging and online writing has changed for many like me.

It’s A Slow Train

It was a slow train coming for me to adopt the idea that writing and earning money were linked. Or could be, or should be.

And I still believe that one must be careful with one’s motivations, not just in writing, but in all endeavors of life. I also understand that without some sort of support, no writer can keep at their craft for long. This is perhaps one of the biggest evolutionary changes for me: if you keep on writing, over time you find you become “a writer”.

In the meantime, I took a break from writing to influence people’s thinking. After spending a good deal of time in online forums, and the dialog that was common on blogs is those days (early years of 2000 to 2007 or so), I grew tired of what online “conversation” had become. No longer exploring differing opinions, creating dialog, or even giving a rational argument for one’s view. Like the rest of the world around it, the web sunk into the morass of polarized diatribe, pandering, and propaganda. It wasn’t fun anymore, then, either.

Yet, there is something very attractive in the way a person, of no means really, can engage in discussion and a public presentation of views, and touch the possible thousands. That is heady stuff. So, I kept on writing and started exploring the world of online income… some of the things which are called passive income, but truthfully aren’t passive at all.

This was a natural road for me since I had started my web experience with non-fiction types of writing… my garden website‘s nascence sprung from the pages begun at that time. In retreating from the hotbed of politics and religion I found solace (as a writer and blogger) in the garden. In the need to pay for the nuts and bolts of such a thing, I began monetizing. Not the easiest thing to do in my chosen set of topics.

Another thing happened along the way… aging.

The focus of life has shifted, and the reality of needing to produce some income for retirement has also become part of my intention for developing my writing online. This has created multiple motivations for branching out into other sorts of writing and interacting online. And let’s not forget the online revolution itself… Facebook and Twitter have mightily changed online writing and all sorts of things.

I still have not forgotten that desire to impact people, to influence society for good (or goodness sake!). I am just not sure how it all works together, or even whether it can.

Paying The Rent

Earning even a small amount of income online is a lot of work. In fact, for a person like me who is not business savvy, I could not write, if I were dependent on its income. Still, some of the things I do are paying for website hosting for my other sites (this one is free, and I own only the content – not the domain). I have ventured into the world that others entered long time back…. writing for income. This I do on sites like SquidooThis site was sold and no longer exists as a home to writers as recorded in this post, and just this week a few articles on Hubpages. They are looked down upon by some in the blogging community, and I understand why. The impetus now is for these sites to clean up the junky parts of the neighborhood.

I like that a format like Squidoo creates community. I haven’t found that in the blogging sector for a long time. I also like that it is set up to create online income for those who contribute. And I have stretched my writing wings in the more mundane aspects of writing. Which is not to demean it. Why be elitist about our writing? I have distaste for this kind of thinking that is so prevalent in the art world.

So, here I am starting to write on Hubpages, too.

I also have learned some marketing along the way which is very enlightening. You view things in our society a whole new way when understanding basic marketing techniques. We are immersed in it whether we realize it or not. Just look at the sales ploy of “scarcity”, for example…. but I digress.

What reasons might be for writing on such sites as Squidoo, or Hubpages, or even Blogger, for that matter?

  1. They share their income with the creative
  2. On the web, promotion is as important as creation. No one will just show up at your blog or website, anymore
  3. It is a free way to get instruction on almost anything, not least on how to earn money online; okay, maybe this is done a little too well.
  4. You network without realizing you are networking
  5. It encourages you to widen your horizons, the way surfing webpages used to “in the old days”

For me, the Squidoo site helped open things that I had long had an interest in but had no grasp of what it took to accomplish. One of those was utilizing the Zazzle site to create and to earn income. I am still making baby steps, but without guidance (and clearly the forums attached to such sites help,too) would still have gone nowhere with these avenues.

My Affiliation on These Sites

If you would like to read more about my thoughts on these sites, making an income online, etc. Check my WebHelp blog.

Community is powerful. It is necessary as well, and the sooner we learn that lesson in family, our neighborhoods and cities, and online, the better. It is just an illustration of “no man is an island” which we will face over and over until we “get it”.

Ah. Now you see I am only one step away from “soapboxing”, or influencing as I like to call it.

Maybe this part of learning what can help me pay the rent is obvious to you. I have an inkling that for individualists who have a high value on personal freedom, it is a hard won realization.

Paying the rent is not just about money. It isn’t about a materialistic society, it is about how we help each other survive and thrive. Work is important and necessary. All sorts of work -and having integrity and honesty in how we go about it- matters.

One more thing, influence is something we do everyday in all our actions, whether we realize it or not.

Missing From Our Education

money

I may not agree 100% with everything that Robert Kiyosaki writes, but he gets some basic things very,very right. He wrote “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, which benefited my family with some common sense ideas that put finances in a perspective that is easy to grasp. He has made some trend forecasting for the next decade, and I think He may be onto something.

I especially agree with this quote:

Financial education is an important objective for this next decade. We cannot allow the gap to grow bigger. We must have financial education in our schools. Money will not close the gap — only financial education will.

This is something that parents need to gain and pass on to their children, and schools need to help.

I was raised by a frugal father, and he passed on some wise sayings to me about finances, but one thing that was of benefit to him that he did not pass on was investing information with the stocks that were in his estate. So I knew how to squeeze a dollar, but I didn’t know how to grow that savings. I had no idea about stocks, or understanding all those symbols and talk about fundamentals, etc.

How many other women out there find that they don’t know very much about finances? Suze Orman has made a career out of that demographic.

I had to learn quickly. The past few years have been quite an education for everyone, but one thing is certain…. most of us will need to understand how finances work as we near “retirement” age. I put that in quotes because many will join the ranks of my husband and I… needing to work as long as we can, without truly “retiring” from the workworld. With Social Security running out, all generations are going to have to make real adjustments in what they view as the costs, and the people they are financially responsible for.

Schools will need to teach about finances in a whole new and rigorous way. And we will all need to deconstruct the old thinking that government will take care of us, or that hard work is enough. We need real skills in understanding the debility of debt, and the way wealth increases and is preserved. We need it for our individual lives, and we need it for our country.

Dear Jesus Santa, Excuse My Greed

In an article titled “10 Worst Marketing Blunders of 2009” I came across the most egregious use of the old form of the prosperity message I have seen in a very long time. It is also one of the most transparent, as far as where the problem is in this type of thinking.

It is all in building your little straw man after you have diverted attention from the actual focus of the admonition of Jesus’ teaching. Maybe the thinking comes from a lack of grammatical understanding, although my bets are on the blindness of greed. To “love others as our­selves” is primarily focused on the directive to love others. That is where our action is to be taken…. the “ourselves” part is to tell us how and to what degree. It is a form of the Golden rule, which reverses the emphasis from what we get out of it to caring more about people other than ourselves.

3) BANKERS CUT BONUSES, INCREASE SALARY & BLAME JESUS

First the banking industry made a big show of cutting the obscene bonuses it was paying itself for going on the dole. Meanwhile they hoped no one would notice the allegedly eliminated bonuses were now being paid as plain old salary.

But wait … that’s not all!

Apparently still feeling that their efforts to destroys the economy were still underappreciated, bankers started claiming Jesus wanted them to do it.

“The injunc­tion of Jesus to love others as our­selves is an endorse­ment of self-?interest,” Goldman’s [inter­na­tional adviser Brian] Grif­fiths said Oct. 20, his voice echo­ing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s finan­cial dis­trict. “We have to tol­er­ate the inequal­ity as a way to achiev­ing greater pros­per­ity and oppor­tu­nity for all.”

How much LSD do you have to take to interpret Scripture this way? However much it is, it is certainly being passed out at all the best financial institutions. Two weeks later, Barclays CEO John Varley spoke at the venerable St. Martin-in-the-Fields and tried to wrap the Bible around his bonus.

“There is no conflict between doing business in an ethical and responsible way and making money. We make our biggest contribution to society by being good at what we do. Profit is not satanic.”

I guess it all depends on who gets to determine how we define ethical and responsible. Perhaps Varley could have gotten away with this specious argument had he not added this gloss to the text after the service: “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes. And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.” (Not a good sign when a banker can’t even get his verb and subject numbers to add up.) Hey John, can we parse the word “fair” for a moment?

I believe the renowned 20th century theologian Ray Price put it best when he asked, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show?

I do believe that God wants to bless us, and that prosperity is part of that. How, though, can one edit out all the portions of scripture that admonish us to share with others, take care to practice equity, practice generosity to the poor, … in other words, the many ways we are to act in loving others?

Perhaps some of these bankers should be shown another Bible verse, from the Old Testament this time:
“Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

When Bad News Is Good News

All those economic numbers get confusing. Some insight on why the stock market is going up when everyone knows the economy is still in the pits.

Christians And Money

Jesus Inc. What does it take to serve God and Mammon?
Fortune Magazine
Richard McGill Murphy, FSB senior editor, February 1, 2006

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business Magazine) – Entrepreneurs, it’s been said, are born hungry and alone. And most are quick to seek not just bread but also fellowship. Nowhere is that impulse more evident than in the growing ranks of Christian business owners, who are banding together for mutual support while they seek to express their faith through their companies. They have created at least 30 networking organizations in the U.S., about half of them launched in the past five years.

While most Christian entrepreneurs hire and do business with Americans of all faiths, a more controversial trend is the rise of local Christian business directories, listing companies that wish to attract customers among fellow believers. Shepherd’s Guide, the largest Christian-directory publisher, prints five million guides a year in more than 100 markets nationwide, up from 3.2 million in 2000. Meanwhile, the market for religious products (everything from hit movies and popular music to live-action figures of Christ and the apostles) is expected to top $8.6 billion in annual sales by 2008, according to Packaged Facts, a market research consultancy.

In corporate America today, with its emphasis on offending no one, the norm is to keep expressions of faith quiet and generic. Christian entrepreneurs are more likely to see their offices and factories as extensions of their beliefs. …on a more personal level, many struggle to reconcile the often hard-edged requirements of commerce with the teachings of Christ.

Parts of the gospels are famously hostile to the pursuit of material wealth. It was Jesus who said that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). Elsewhere Jesus asserted that no man can serve both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:14). The rich man who keeps all the commandments must still give all his property to the poor, Jesus said, if he wants to go to heaven (Mark 10:17-23). And Jesus did not just drive the moneychangers from the temple; he also expelled “all of those who bought and sold” there (Matthew 21:2).[bold emphasis mine ]

….And in the ambiguous parable of the talents, Jesus seems to use business success as a metaphor for moral virtue. A master goes away on a journey and entrusts each of his slaves with a sum of gold talents, or coins. When the master returns, he asks each servant what happened to the money. Those who increased their capital by investing it are praised, but the servant who buried his money gets branded “worthless” for wasting a valuable opportunity (Matthew 25:14-30).

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away,” says Jesus, sounding to modern ears like Gordon Gekko before his first cup of coffee.

When the gospels were written, most Christians were poor, persecuted outsiders. But after the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christianity became the official religion of the empire and an avenue for worldly advancement. Since then, Christian doctrine has grown more amenable to business. In the 17th century, Calvinist merchants piled up wealth in the belief that it was a sign of God’s blessing. The Pilgrims sailed to North America seeking both religious freedom and commercial opportunity. And modern evangelical business owners often measure success in souls saved as well as widgets sold.

…..they want a workplace that reflects their deepest values. Some doubtless use the gospels to rationalize business as usual.

But at a deeper level, sincere Christians have much in common with committed entrepreneurs. Both callings demand faith in things unseen and persistence in the face of dangers and doubts. They ask themselves: Is it right to lay off workers to boost profits, or only to save the company? How do you foster a Christian office culture without violating the rights of non-Christian employees? What if you can’t get a city contract without bending the law? How fast must you run to beat a camel into paradise?

There are problems with this article. Some of the glaring ones I highlighted in bold type. Why does this matter? It changes the message…. and that makes all the difference.

Although the author,Richard M. Murphy, doesn’t come right out and say it, he throws the whole idea of Christians as successful business people into doubt. As if something were sort of wrong with the whole thing, a ‘rotten in Denmark’ feel.
So let’s look at that first.

“Parts of the gospels are famously hostile to the pursuit of material wealth”. Actually, what Jesus addresses is the same message as the first commandment as given to Moses. You can only serve one master: it ought to be God. In context, the Jewish nation had been corrupted by some of the influence of the gentile culture…The Lord Jesus was correcting that, as seen in his remonstrance to not exhibit the gentile thinking of worry about what to wear or eat. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t part of life, but the manner of thinking and living was reprioritized. This is the same message in those passages quoted by the author. And this statement,”The rich man who keeps all the commandments must still give all his property to the poor, Jesus said, if he wants to go to heaven ” is just plain wrong. The context is in the question of the particular individual wanting to know what further things he must do. The Master pinpointed the place of resistance… material belongings outweighed spiritual pursuit. It was dragging the young man down. Christian doctrine has always emphasized that one must hold this material world lightly…. but not that one must let go entirely. That is the message of the ascetic and closer to Eastern forms of religious thought. Peter’s answer to Ananias and Sapphira summed up the principle:
“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”-Acts 5

“The Pilgrims sailed to North America seeking both religious freedom and commercial opportunity.” is a particularly glaring mistake. Excuse me? Commercial opportunity? A largely uncharted, unsettled and wild land is .. a commercial opportunity? If the author had a working knowledge of the history of the Pilgrims, he would have known that they first fled to the Netherlands where they had a prosperous life, but were feeling they were losing their children to the culture. The Pilgrims risked all for new life in the American continent for a spiritual quest of religious freedom to build their own society according to their convictions as Christians. They were Separatists and wanted to start life away from the practices of European Christianity and lifestyle.
Another misrepresentation is within this, “When the gospels were written, most Christians were poor, persecuted outsiders. But after the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christianity became the official religion of the empire and an avenue for worldly advancement. Since then, Christian doctrine has grown more amenable to business. ”

While it is true many were poor, and some were made poor through persecutions… the idea that Christian doctrine some how “evolved” is quite false. It is rather a case of changing circumstance that allowed for Christians to prosper, not changing their doctrine, but no longer holding them in oppressed circumstances of the persecuted. There were still the emphases on giving to the poor, to missions, and other Christians in persecuted circumstance or as general good works. That did not change.

There were always some wealthy Christians and this was not criticised. I.E. Joseph of Arimethea who begged the body of Jesus and buried him in a new tomb that he owned. This was someone with real wealth. Lydia, a business woman who hosted the church in her home, another example of wealth.

Wealth or Mammon was always a matter of having its proper place, and being held lightly rather than grasped tightly- as humans can be prone to do.

So is it a moral conflict for a Christian to be wealthy? No. Are there moral dilemmas to grapple with in business decisions, etc? Yes, of course.

Have families always tried to help each other and become more successful and thrive in practical ways? It’s true all over the world… and one thing the Gospel does teach is that Christians are a brotherhood; so it is so far a stretch to understand why they should band together for business purposes as well? What are many of the social benefits that Christians build, but businesses? Hospitals schools, charities, these all have components of business and wealth.

Christian Faith should inform the business practices of the Christian, and this will provide ethical direction as well as examples of diligence and practice… not at all in conflict with the idea that Christians can be successful, if that is what God directs.

Deuteronomy 8:18
“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”