It's not an easy question to answer, and I have approached this topic in bits and pieces over the past three years... but without putting it all together in one essay.
Mostly it's a tale of reminding myself to stay open to possibilities even when I don't fully believe in them, and of being willing to change my perceptions and preconceived notions as something unfolds.
As humans, we tend to often get locked into our fixed opinions about life and "how things work," you see.
There's a rather long pre-amble here, as I am 59 years old and there's a lot of backstory attached to why I am here, in the first place.
TL;DR: I've been writing most of my life. I started blogging for money in the late 1990's. Every "content for money" site I've ever been part of has failed miserably, due to greed and scammers. Now scroll down to "I Didn't Think it Would be Real..."
Early Days: Writing Dreams
When I was a kid, most of my friends wanted to grow up to become anything from the proverbial "firemen" to veterinarians to zoo keepers.
My answer to inquiring adults was that I wanted to grow up to "tell stories," aka being a writer. When I told people this, I'd get a pat on my head and the person asking would say something like "that's adorable!" and the conversation would move on.
Although I wrote extensively in my journals, by the time I was ready to leave high school, my parents and extended family had made it patently obvious that writing wasn't "a REAL job" and I would need to do something different with my life if I expected to actually make a living and not end up as a drunk living in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass.
Years of Indentured Servitude and Broken Dreams
Whether by chance or by choice, I can now look back from the age of 59 and see that I managed to surround myself with people who valued the concrete and tangible, not the creative and often intangible.
I dutifully completed university and emerged with a business degree in finance; I went to work doing supposedly "real things" and gradually sank into the meaningless and monotone state of semi-depression that follows many creatives who turn their backs on their core nature and vocation.
Certainly I wrote, but it was purely for my own explorative purposes, and I had pretty much abandoned the idea that I was "a writer."
Then Came the Internet!
My return to writing was directly linked to a changing environment around me: With the advent of the Internet and these things called "blogs," I re-kindled my love of writing in the late 1990's recognizing the amazing potential of instant publishing and the possibility of getting immediate feedback.
Still, I wasn't yet thinking in terms of leaving the world of business; at this time I was owner/manager of an import business... and even though it made me neither happy nor delivered any deeper sense of meaning, at least it did pay the bills. Somewhat...
Then "something" happened: People started monetizing the web; and various attempts to compensate writers and creatives for their contributions to web sites were initiated. In 1999, I became part of the very first user generated content site that rewarded writers!
More Broken Dreams...
In the course of the next almost two decades, I found myself becoming part of more than fifty venues that all promised to pay independent content creators for their content.
I dared to think that I might still become somewhat of a writer!
Alas, all these projects — most of which were started with great fanfare and enthusiasm, and hefty dose of idealism — had one thing in common: They FAILED.
Some failed spectacularly; some failed slowly, bleeding quietly to death in a corner.
Two "facts" made themselves very clear to me, as I applied my more functional business background to examining the detritus of these failures:
Web content — or at least 99% of it — has absolutely no intrinsic monetary value in a functional business sense. It's pure folly to think you can write about your dog, or your kids, or what you ate for dinner... and expect anyone to pay a "price of admission" for that.
Every person — BAR NONE — who starts a project like this grossly underestimates the sheer depth of greed and willingness to exploit inherent in a substantial segment of the human population. Translation: Whenever something really good comes along, the voices of exploiters far outweigh the voices of legitimate users.
By 2015, I was almost entirely out of the online writing "business," save for a handful of personal blogs attached to several small business projects I had started as a way to no longer be a servant of soulless Korporate Amerika.
Fortunate Timing: The Return to Social Blogging!
I was quite honestly not looking for anything like Steemit (yeah, I know, "Steem"... but that's what we called it in early 2017!), I wasn't interested in cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin and a handful of other "biggies," seeing them mostly as "scammy money grabs", and my mind was firmly fixed on the idea that any web venue that promised to "reward" contributors on a large scale was doomed to fail because (in my experience) 99% of web content has ZERO tangible value.
So I ended yup here totally by accident... because a friend asked me to check out an article about a Universal Basic Income Project; an article that just happened to be published on Steemit.
What was in the article turned out to be scammy nonsense, but I had never heard of this "Steemit" platform before, so I poked around a bit.
And I was surprised!
I was surprised by the relatively intelligent and courteous interaction on articles, and I was surprised by the overall quality of what was published! It reminded me of the golden years of "Social Blogging" and I suddenly felt hopeful that the genre might be enjoying a rebirth!
Granted, my "bar" was pretty low: Most of my social media activity at the time was Facebook, twitter and the like.
I Didn't Think it Would be Real...
So, just for grins, I made an account.
I really didn't care about the "rewards" many people seemed obsessed with (because I "KNEW" that sites offering rewards for writing were doomed...), and I really didn't care about cryptocurrencies beyond BTC, ETH and a couple of others.
That said, I did have an appreciation for the broader idea of the "gamification" of social media as a way to ensure loyalty and user retention. It makes sense, much like frequent flyer programs make sense.
So, just for grins, I wrote an Introduction.
History will document that my first post received 589 upvotes and was rewarded to the tune of $40.32.
I shrugged and regarded it as a fluke. Or maybe it was just "on paper," and there would be some impossible process required to actually see that money. Or maybe it was just imaginary dollars.
I Didn't Think it Would Last...
Within a few weeks, I was happily posting away and really enjoying the lively interaction!
This place was rekindling my interest in blogging!
I was also "making" a far more realistic $0.00 to $0.10 per post, which seemed more in line with what I expected a venue like this to be able to support.
Sadly, as we progressed into the spring of 2017, it also seemed like my "expectations" were becoming a reality...
... sure, I was watching the numbers in my wallet get larger... while also watching the price of Steem drop slowly... to 12 cents. Then to 10 cents. Then below 10 cents. To 8 cents. To 7 cents.
Because — in my universe — good things don't last...
I Didn't Think it Would AMOUNT to Anything
But I persevered; kept writing and kept interacting. I decided to simply forget about the rewards and try to enjoy the company and the interaction.
After all... I'd been a top-100 blogger on social blogging site Xanga, back around 2003-05, and Steemit still had a very similar feel... and I really liked that. On Xanga, we didn't get paid, and people were still posting 100s and 1000s of blog posts!
Besides, my niche blogs were only netting me a couple of $100 payments a year from Google Adsense, so that was also pretty much creating content for nothing...
Steem was gradually making me believe that maybe it COULD survive!
Then — in May 2017 — the price of Steem quickly popped up to $1.25 (having recently been below seven cents!), and I suddenly realized that I was making a tangible income from my blogging!
It Bought New Tires for the Truck
After quite a bit of fumbling around, I finally managed to figure out the rather laborious process of getting from Steem to Bitcoin to USD.
It wasn't so much that I wanted to "cash out," it was more a case of wanting to see whether what was "on the screen" could actually be translated into something "real-world."
I had ulterior motives: I wanted to "show" a number of friends and acquaintances who were certain I was involved in a scam, and I wanted to show Mrs. Denmarkguy who was graciously putting up with my "blogging for Monopoly money."
In the summer of 2017, we bought a new set of tires for our truck with Steem!
That was certainly one of the more "impactful" events of Steem on my earlier days as a contributor here!
It Paid For Our LIVES...
As many who have been part of this gig for a long time know, 2017-18 was a wild ride in the world of crypto.
Although I had hoped to just ride the rollercoaster and keep powering up here, our life circumstances — including a couple of failing small businesses — were such that I had to regularly withdraw.
Which, of course, I did.
Steem not only funded much of our life between August 2017 and the end of 2018; it made it possible for us to regroup our businesses and start out in a new direction!
Sadly, I have had to substantially power down twice to meet major life expenses, but it is because of Steem we were able to meet these challenges and not become homeless in the process.
And so, I am Still Here!
Of course, you don't need me to tell you that it has been a bumpy ride for all of us here in Steemlandia, for many months now.
But I am still here and still blogging because I value this community and venue, and the friendships I have made here.
And I am here because I believe Steem is slowly and gradually moving towards some kind of long term sustainability.
And so Steem impacted my life by changing my perception and gradually leaving behind my beliefs that venues with rewards for contributors are automatically doomed!
I am also here because I want to be part of creating a new paradigm for how web content is presented, stored and rewarded. Steem may not end up being the final word, but I have a sense it will (at least!) become what many things to come are ultimately modeled after!
Thanks for reading my lengthy screed!
(Another #creativecoin creative non-fiction post)
What's YOUR story? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment-- share your experiences-- be part of the conversation!
(As usual, all text and images by the author, unless otherwise credited. This is original content, created expressly for this platform.)
Created at 20200114 15:31 PST