Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Too Much Helium in the Universe

Last July I begin contributing articles to, in part because it is a pay site and the allure of money always tantalizes writers. My expectations were not especially high; I figured if things broke my way, I might pull down a hundred extra dollars in a year and perhaps get noticed by someone besides immediate family members.

Little did I realize that I might as well have been hoping for a Nobel Prize and a seven figure book deal. All too often, Helium reveals itself as a parochial, amateurish operation. For instance, this past April I penned an article about Betws-y-coed, an attractive but touristy Welsh hamlet. In the text, I made references to another Helium author's piece about the same region, nothing hostile nor fawning, just a couple passing comments. Fast forward to earlier this month and I notice an E-mail from Helium saying they have removed the article from the site because I mentioned another writer by name. Not only was I not aware this violated any rules, but it also took three months for anyone to notice and I had done it several times before without ever receiving such a warning.

In addition, the quality of writing on Helium can be embarrassingly shoddy. The abysmal spelling, the questionable grammar, the misapplication or omission of words, the endless, childish, petty ranting are emblematic of how the freedom of the Internet has wounded, though certainly not slain, the art of eloquent prose. This is not to suggest people who don't write well should not be permitted to try, nor even that it's inappropriate to expose such efforts to the general public via the World Wide Web. The notion that people use writing, among other pursuits, as an outlet for self-discovery and growth is by no means nonsensical, even if it is a bit overstated at times.

Like many technological and scientific advances, Internet writing creates a double edged sword. Many deserving writers who might never have been discovered twenty years ago can now attain notoriety. But how many talentless blowhards must we endure in order to read that one rare gem? It's a dilemma we have yet to resolve.

I'm certain many Helium writers would adopt a far more charitable tone when discussing the site; I am simply not impressed with its quality or content. For many, writing is simply a sounding board, a method to vent and express uninformed opinions. There is no law against that--nor should there be--but meanwhile many of the other pleasures and difficulties of writing seem to get lost in this eagerness for self-expression: research, word selection, humor, and irony.

And if you disagree with me, I don't care. After all, I'm just venting. Writing's my outlet, suckas!