The following post was written with the title, "Why I Won't Be Writing For Yahoo Voices"; and I've considered deleting it now that Yahoo Voices is closed. Only a couple of days after Bubblews has made some major changes on the site, I've decided to (at least for now) to re-title the post and deal with deleting and/or editing it later, when site changes have settled down. Rather than delete it right now, I'm thinking there may still be some relevance with regard to online writing-sites and how some types of writing are judged.

In any case, here (at least for now) is the gripe I had with how Yahoo Voices judged my first attempt to offer my "voice" *after they'd taken over AC:

When I saw that Yahoo Voices actually encouraged (at least as I interpreted it) first-person writing, I thought I'd give it a shot. My online writing is a spare time thing (although I have a lot more spare time these days than I did awhile). I want/need to "write from my head" because I don't want to turn my spare-time thing into a second or third job. Also, at this point I am in my life, I want to do what most writers want to do at some point or another, which is write what I think I have to offer - not write what someone else wants me to write. I'm not young. I hate to think that some of the stuff I've learned, figured out for myself, will be wasted.

So, when I saw that Voices a) has editors, and b) encourages first-person writing; I thought it might be just the place for me. Knowing how to write in proper grammar, and being experienced with strictly adhering to guidelines (when I know there's no flexibility to do otherwise), I thought I may feel as if my stuff fit in better there than it now does on this site. Also, I already have an account there from their days of being Associated Content and my days of being fairly new at writing online. I actually did quite well with the up-front payments back then, and even today I get the monthly few (VERY few) dollars from that account.

So, after studying their guidelines really well, I tried to think up something I had to offer that might be "different from what everyone else out there is offering". Sticking with those guidelines, I wrote my article, stayed away from taking some of the grammar-liberties I do in more casual writing, and double-checked it to make sure the grammar and typing were perfect.

I decided to write about why "The Terrible Two's" are not inevitable, and why/how, with a little sensitivity to that particular developmental level, parents can do what I, in fact, did - which was to have kids who didn't go through any "terrible" stage. The reason I knew what I was doing when my own kids were little was that I'd had a lot of experience with children, had common sense, and have always included reading about child development and psychology in my personal reading. I'm not someone who would tell other people how to do something if I hadn't, in fact, accomplished doing it myself (three times, with one of those child not having my genes, and with three children who were developmentally mature (rather than "slow" as some who witnessed how reasonable they could be at two hinted here or there).

I thought my article had absolutely everything these people could possible want - the perfect grammar and spelling, the "something-nobody-else-seems-to-be-offering" element, the whole bit.

Well, I'm far from thin-skinned when it comes to being rejected; and I certainly know that every site has its right to reject whatever it wants. What irked me, however, was the REASON that article was sent back (either to be deleted or submitted after revisions). The thing came back rejected and with a comment that I hadn't included my RESEARCH!!! It was first-person article!!! It was MY STORY about how I accomplished something and why!!! My "research" was having a mother who shared understanding of children with me. It was remembering a few snippets about how it feels to be two or three years old. It was being raised around A LOT of babies and toddlers, about babysitting "zillions" of kids in the last seven years of my teens, and about common sense. It was also from having reading any number of the "zillions" of child development/parenting books that are out there and that pretty much most parents (or at least mothers) read when their babies are on the way and/or under school age. My "research" included conversations with all kinds of other mothers (friends, family members, mothers I'd run into at one place or another). I don't even recall which books I've read at one time or another in my forty years of being an adult and thirty-plus years of being a mother. No assertion that I made in that fairly short piece was something that isn't generally common knowledge (or at least that isn't "common knowledge" to the average person who would likely be reading that particular piece; I, personally, can't worry about anyone who keeps himself/herself so dismally un-informed that he's not up on what most other people interested in a subject recognize as "common knowledge").

One could argue that if something I'd written in that article were as "common knowledge" as I say it is, then there wouldn't be so many people in the world who seem to believe that "The Terrible Two's" are, and always will be, inevitably terrible. What was common knowledge in my article, however, was a few assertions related to WHY is was able to understand how to head off difficult behavior in my own two-year-olds. The main point of the article was that I knew how I had done just that and was sharing that with any readers. Besides, part of that "why" was that I had learned enough about two-year-olds (by reading those child-development books) to be able to go into that stage of my own kids' development understanding it a little better. The real point of the article was that the "Terrible Two's" are not inevitable, that I know that because of my own experience and exposure to other mothers whose children weren't "terrible" at two, and that anyone can head off most, if not all, of the challenging ("terrible") behavior if they learn a little more about how children of two years old (or so) think and/or feel.

So, in any case, how on Earth would a person cram my particular variety of "research" in to a 500 (or so)-word article??? Besides, it was a FIRST PERSON piece!!!! That's what their guidelines encouraged!!
After immediately deciding not to bother re-submitting the piece (for up-front pay), digging up some version of "pretend" research that might make some "writing-platform editor" happy (who do they have "editing" anyway?), OR submitting the piece for no up-front payment and only for whatever revenue clicks on it brought; I decided to do my own thing with my own article, and take my chances on whatever traffic it gets or doesn't get wherever I decide to post it.

As I said (or at least suggested) earlier, I'm not someone who doesn't respect the right of writing sites to accept, pay for and/or publish according to their own aims, terms and standards. As I also said, I'm not thin-skinned about rejections or editing suggestions. It's all part of the deal. Neither am I one of those people who just automatically assume that because someone is acting as an editor (or at least screener) on a writing site that necessarily means the person isn't particularly all that qualified as a professional editor. They've got their job to do, and I imagine most try to do it to the best of their ability.
Still, I was kind of baffled about why that particular article would come back with that particular comment about research. It occurred to me that maybe Yahoo Contributor Network has some behind-the-scenes rule that if the subject involves child development it must be a researched article. Then again, however, why not state that in the guidelines posted for writers? It also occurred to me that it was only one editor (or screener) who saw the piece, and maybe my piece had landed on the screen of someone who "isn't the brightest bulb" when it comes to interpreting guidelines. Of course, I didn't rule out the very real possibility that I had misinterpreted the guidelines, but - I don't know... - it sure seemed to me that I had a pretty good idea of what those guidelines intended to convey.

It occurred to me that I could have run into a twenty-two-year-old person who hasn't yet seen how living a few decades of life can mean we collect a bunch of information/experience that’s actually a matter of knowledge, rather than opinion. The point isn’t really whether a first-person “how I” (as opposed to a “how to” article) deserved to get an upfront-pay offer. The point is that it was a first-person, “how I”, article, that their guidelines sure make it look as if they want first-person-experience material, and that some clown wrote back to me and asked about my research! (“WTH” – as they say).

Image: ME Whelan