I'm a 60-year-old retired teacher who spent the bulk of my professional life teaching in the subjects of writing and literature.
I come from an academic background -- BA in English, Masters in English Education, advanced certifications in Gifted and Talented education. I'm a National Board Certified teacher and have taught both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.
Post-retirement, I have spent the last couple of years experimenting with various methods of making money online to supplement my teacher's pension. I enjoy learning and challenging myself as well as watching my PayPal earnings grow.
I have done stints as a ghostwriter, an Internet marketer, an article writer, a content mill writer, and a freelance writer. The Internet is constantly evolving, bringing with it changing demands, changing expectations, and a fluctuating amount of pay.
Other ventures I have pursued -- and enjoyed -- have included grading essays written for the SAT and other standardized tests. Such online gigs come with degree and experience requirements, deadlines, and expectations, all of which are compressed within small units of time scattered throughout the school year.
In other words, I recognize great writing when I see it. My journey in trying to produce good writing continues. Writing for the Internet is far different from that of writing for academia; it has not been an easy transition.
Finally, A Home for this old Hound
I discovered BlogMutt about a year ago and was hesitant to get started. The pay for a blog post was advertised as being $8, which seemed a bit on the low side for me. My mindset was from a place that was paying me $15 or more per article and with residuals on articles that had earned me as much as $155 each for a few lucky gems. Those posts continue to bring in small recurring income, although not enough to fund a pink Cadillac or Maui vacation.
Part of my experience in writing included a stint at Demand Studios, whose editors could be as "demanding" as the name implies. I enjoyed writing on that platform, but did not enjoy the editors who hacked up posts into incomprehensibility and created an atmosphere that felt like I had the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head every time I hit "send" on a post. I got no helpful encouragement in the ways of the Web.
Consequently, I was slow to get started at BlogMutt, fearing the almighty rejection of my posts as I was unfamiliar with countless technological terms and far from keyword savvy.
After I finally dove into the BlogMutt kennel, I found encouragement in its forum. Rather than some of the opinionated, snarky, know-it-all people familiar to anyone who frequents writers' forums, the mutts here had somehow managed to keep out anyone who even attempted to turn frisky little canines into malevolent sets of fangs. I credit much of this to the site owners, for they are rare indeed in the content writing arena. Encouraging, kind, gracious, and supportive, they somehow manage to get the best out of their writers without any heavy-handedness whatsoever.
What a pleasurable experience it is to read their frequent comments, articles, or requests for improvement. Also refreshing was how they actively worked to eliminate any abuse from clients, as will sometimes happen when paying customers think the fees they pay bring with them a sense of entitlement. The BlogMutt team efficiently manages even the most bullying of the bullies who too often proliferate in the Internet world.
My BlogMutt Epiphany
It didn't take me long to realize I could whip out a blog post in short order if I knew anything at all about the topic. My tendency to go on and on would mean I'd spend way too much time on a post. After a while I realized that nobody really wanted to read a treatise on industrial scales or HR software. The customers just wanted a nice quick and clean bit of writing, hopefully with something new to them.
Once I got in the groove, I realized that my per-hour pay was better than at all the other online gigs, and I never had to hassle at all with invoicing or getting paid. Once a week I'd get a nice little email that my PayPal balance had grown again.
Before my best gig had been grading online essays that brought with them intense deadlines, smeared on-screen pencil smudges, and the need for a tremendous amount of intense concentration.
Writing for BlogMutt, by far, won out. I had found my best venue yet for earning money online. It carried with it little stress, no deadlines, and absolutely no pressure. I could write as much or as little as I desired, whenever I desired, on whatever topics I selected from BlogMutt's lengthy list of clients. I didn't even have to make edits for a client if I considered him too finicky for my tastes. Instead, the client could choose another blog post from a writer more suited to his tastes.
The Month My World Changed
In April, 2013, I was diagnosed with lymphoma of the colon.
I had not been sick for even a day since my retirement in 2006 -- not even a runny nose. There had been no symptoms, no discomfort, and no warning signs. The diagnosis was a result of a routine colonoscopy.
I had a CT scan and my tests were sent to pathologists, upon whose findings my proctologist and oncologist decided surgery was my next step, to be followed by chemotherapy. They admitted that they were perplexed by my particular type of "weird looking cells" that showed up, and sent me to a surgeon at Duke, who joined forces with a team of doctors who were going to decide which to do first -- remove my ENTIRE colon or begin with chemotherapy.
I was, to say the least, terrified. I had not been ill, I felt like I was in the best of health. Yet, here I was facing radical surgery and prolonged chemotherapy. Reading the Internet brought further terror. If the cancer had spread to my small intestine, there likely would be little chance for survival.
Quickly I came face-to-face with my own mortality and was fast deciding what was important in my life.
I set about making use of the time before my surgery date living my life. I helped my brother paint his kitchen. I went to a baseball game for the first time since I had been a child. I updated my will, my power of attorney, my end-of-life papers. I cleared out drawers, closets, papers, and even threw away old love letters from days gone by. In short, I got my house in order and prepared for "come what may."
Life became a roller coaster as I compartmentalized the day's activities. I awoke each morning to the sound of birds welcoming the day. The voice in my head screamed, "I have cancer. Every day is a gift. It will end soon." I prayed for strength; I prayed for my family; I prayed for a little more time. Everything around me was brighter, more vivid. Church held a greater intensity. My husband and I took time to cry, then uttered our special word that meant, "Let's hush now. We have to rest," or "I have to stop now or I'll make a fool out of myself in front of all these people." I called friends and did more good deeds.
Life's about living, not dying. There might not be time for enough good works to secure my place in the hereafter.
Throughout it all, there was a surprising but undeniable comfort in the knowledge that BlogMutt was there. No matter how bad I might feel in the days ahead, I knew that I could still bring in some income to help with my expenses. It's possible to write for BlogMutt from a couch, a chair in a chemo office or even a hospital bed.
I found solace in knowing I could still participate in something I much enjoyed doing: writing and learning while researching topics I found interesting.
The rest of the story
An astute pathologist at Duke, after viewing my slides, asked the team to revisit them. She thought I might not have lymphoma after all. Instead, she thought I had something that was perfectly normal, despite the "weirdness" of my cells. When I visited my surgeon at Duke, instead of scheduling surgery to remove my colon, he said he was "retracting" the original diagnosis. (I guess colon doctors just love that word.)
It took a moment for the news to sink in. In fact, it still is sinking in.
"So, I don't have cancer?" I asked.
He answered that indeed I did not, and told me to go out with my family and "have a good lunch." Although stunned, I did just that, along with walking around in a daze for the next 24 hours or so.
Final results are not in, but they will be shortly. All my doctors think it would be rare indeed for me to actually have lymphoma of the colon. Like any other 60+ year-old, I will continue to have colonoscopies as needed.
But the news is this: I'll continue to live my life, and God willing it will be much longer than a typical dog's life. No matter what, I'll still be able to write for BlogMutt, yapping happily as the sun sets and rises upon the gift of another new day.
BlogMutt's tagline reads, "We work like a dog to fill up your blog!" That is certainly true of many of the BlogMutt writers. My personal tag line runs more along the lines of, "I work like a contented old hound, lounging in my easy chair." There's room enough for us all.
BlogMutt writers look forward to when they "Level Up." I hit Level 6 the very day the doctor retracted my diagnosis. Although reaching that number was the second best thing that happened to me that fine June day, it was a welcome bit of icing on the cake.
Editor's note: The first time I read this I had trouble finishing because my eyes were unable to focus through the tears. Thanks so much to this writer, and to all BlogMutt writers and customers, who make running BlogMutt a true joy. --Scott