So this week, I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign (here for more info - though goal is reached, you can STILL pony up if you're so moved) with the aim of gathering rent money on a co-working space so I could take my increasingly complex and varied work life out of my house.
The initial goal was $3K to cover like 6 months' rent - I blew through that figure in 2 days, so I raised the goal to $5K, in order to enable me to be freed a bit from the pressure to generate freelance income while working in a more focused way on creative projects (the WRITE CLUB anthology, a YA novel I've long neglected). In a couple more days, I blasted through the new goal. Who knows? Maybe I could keep going, keep raising the goal till I amassed a salary-of-a-Quizno's-branch-manager-type figure. Then it'd be nothing but hammock naps and traveling around on jet-boots.
But the money was never the point. I mean - don't get me wrong - I need the money. I need this money and way more of it. We have a mortgage and a shit-ton of credit card debt and an aging car (our second one was totaled in March and we can't afford to replace it) - on and on. Just like everybody else.
But I also have this stubborn, intractable, inflexible, unyielding need to continue making art. And given the market realities of this world, I am able to discern that I am not an internationally famous movie star or pop diva, therefore I am shuffling up the kill chute into the slaughterhouse of poverty, along with near everybody I know.
But my drive to continue creating is undimmed. So, knowing that there are a (limited, so limited) number of people in this world who dig what I do, I resolved to conduct this crowdfunding experiment. Below are my findings:
- Sweat Equity. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I've been toiling mostly for free on making shit for a long time. Some of that shit has turned out pretty well. This achieves the double benefit of my having the confidence to turn to the world and say: "Hey - this is what I need," and for certain among you to reply "I hear that - you have a track record of making shit. Go. Make more." Without the years - YEARS, children - of making shit mostly for free, this request of the world would have been presumptuous and would, I hope, have fallen on deaf ears.
- Asking for Help. I would rather remain conscious through brain surgery than do this. It acknowledges that I am vulnerable and finite; that I am unable to hit upon/devise solutions my quandaries. It has at its center a kernel of "I am not equal to this - I am not smart/capable/strong enough to fix this." Asking for help is a house, the basement of which is mortality - which, ultimately, maybe is the basement of all human experience - but here I mean that the logical extension of "I am limited" is some form of "I will one day die." Which is generally a bummer thing to think. But as is invariably the case - that struggle/source of pain/roadblock will remain forever insurmountable if you don't screw your head into that halo, and listen as the surgeon bone-saws your skull open. Then, before you know it, your surgery is complete and you're no longer hearing the voices, and experiencing that persistent smell of burning hair.
- Self Loathing Can Go Fuck Itself. Important distinction: self DOUBT is critically, indispensibly important. They've done tons of studies and the "there are no bad ideas" form of brainstorming is an ineffective time suck that succeeds in nothing but sparing people's feelings. It's a demonstrated fact that sinking some sharp critical teeth into a plan/project/idea yields better results. So, YES. Be hard on yourself - have escalating expectations of yourself. But do NOT succumb that impulse that preemptively scuttles you, that makes your every utterance some form of apology, and that makes the only ride in the amusement park of your life a demoralizing one called the Shame Spiral.
- Money is an Ingredient. In the stew you are preparing - it is an ingredient only. It is not a recipe, it is not a completed dish. If you regard it as some kind of end point or apex, you doom yourself to a covetous life of envy porn where the concept of Enough will remain forever beyond reach.
- Gratitude Like a Pile Driver. Over the course of the week, I composed an increasingly elaborate series of personalized thank-yous on my facebook wall for the persons known to me that kicked in. This was great fun, and allowed each of them to know that I was humbled/thankful without ever getting soppy and dewy-eyed about it. In the same way that WRITE CLUB is an ongoing experiment in badass generosity, the more of these thank-yous I posted, the clearer it became that it's fully possible to remain weird, loud, and truculent (in other words, sacrificing nothing of my usual voice) while also making clear that I'm touched and thankful. Couple of my favorite examples:
You know how you'll get on the goddamn bus, because of a long series of cluster-fuckity circumstancesyou don't even want to go into, and you the bus is populated by people you know only dimly and the only open seat is next to some dude you don't know at all, but a couple people have assured you that he's a good dude, so you brace yourself a little bit, because despite these assurances, you yourself remain a person who is essentially fearful, and your shitty coping mechanism is to cling to the asinine belief that all people are boring and stupid, which, even though you acknowledge that this is a piss-poor means of dealing with the world nonetheless compels you to dread every new encounter with every new person, and so you're all clenched as you sit down next to the dude, stuffing earbuds in and making a big show of elaborately opening your book to send the signal: "Do not approach. Remain silent." But then the dude asks you about your book. And, gritting your teeth, you engage. And he makes a recommendation of another book that kicks total ass. And then you both talk about the One True Favorite Writer who is the same for both of you, and who - each time you're poised to read a new story, you have a feeling a little like you're drowning because you want to love it so bad, and are afraid the One True Favorite Writer will have lost it - and you'd never have been able to articulate that anticipatory drowning feeling were it not for this conversation with this former stranger on a bus. The bus is social media. The dude I dreaded conversing with but am nonetheless glad I did is Kevin Forest Moreau.
Sometimes people are misguided or undiscerning enough to praise you for your way with words. Which - don't get me wrong - you totally, totally appreciate. But which also rings a little hollow when you know that such a person as Barrie Cole exists in the world, and has this wizardly, alchemical capacity to break language into its constituent parts and wring its juices into a bucket of her own devising and to stir the contents of that bucket with a vigor and intensity that you feel like might leave your poor brain in a smoking husk were you to attempt it. Then she pours that resulting concoction into your ears with that voice that hovers in the air between you like a jet trail, and the reconstituted language burrows into your brain and nests there. And you maybe forget about it for a while, but then its chrysalis splits and it flies around inside your brain, and even though you know you can't work the kind of magic that she does, you look with new eyes at the words before you, and you by God try.
So you know how the first time you see Charlie Bucket returns the Everlasting Gobstopper, and on the one hand you're OUTRAGED that he would part with such UNENDURABLE BOUNTY THAT FITS IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND, but on the other hand, you're proud of him in a way you can't fully identify - a way that has to do with backbone and character, a way that offers satisfactions that share nothing whatever with the satisfactions afforded by Candy Without End. And you have that stung-betrayed feeling that THIS STORY IS ACTUALLY OH-MY-GOD ENDING THIS WAY, and then Wonka palms the candy, and everything shifts for Charlie forever and always right there? Amy Neill Bebergal is that Wonka-palm.
- Let's Light This Candle. Generosity is tremendous. The professions of friends and loved ones of their belief in your abilities and desire to see you free to create more - these are wonderful. But if this infusion does not act as a propellant, or a foothold on the rock face, then it will have been for nothing. I resolve to grant my full attention to these larger-scale projects that have lain neglected. I resolve to lace up my kicking boots and go after bigger slabs of ass. I resolve to work to make WRITE CLUB better and bigger and broader, and to remain hungry for new heights (or depths, as the case may be) of fury and might.