I learned something today, or re-learned it. (I learned it once before, several years ago, but the learning faded, or the circumstances were different enough that I didn’t apply the learning.)
I learned that if someone asks you to write something for their website, for free, and you don’t really want to…don’t do it.
I didn’t really want to because I have other deadlines already, and because the request was oddly specific – it should have this quality, and this, and this. But it was for a branch of Open Democracy, and I like Open Democracy, so I asked if I could also post it here and was told yes, so I said ok.
But the specificity was a problem, and made it hard to write, so it took up space over several days because of the difficulty. But I wrote it and sent it – and the editors sent it back requesting lots of detailed changes, including ones that would make it fit better with their line (but not with anything I ever write about).
I’m writing about it here because it’s an issue of workers’ rights, of scabbing, of the rights of writers. It’s not just me. This is one of those things – like modeling, like journalism, like a lot of coveted jobs – where people get exploited because there are a lot of people who want to do that kind of work. I don’t think people who run websites should take advantage of that.
I think they asked for way too much for a piece they weren’t paying for. Maybe I’m spoiled; in all three of the columns I write I’m used to deciding for myself what I write about and how I write about it. But I’m not spoiled to think that if I’m going to write something to other people’s specifications, I should be paid for it.
The section of OD is called Transformation. It has a whiff of the spiritual and a whiff of the touchy-feely…so I’m not sure why they wanted me to write for them in the first place. Anyway, quite frankly I think they should transform their way of dealing with writers first of all.