Songs for the Struggling Artist

Some Rejections and Some Math

Last year, my Medusa play was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’ Neill Playwrights Conference. Given how establishment the conference is and how anti-establishment my work feels to me, I was shocked to get that far.

Also, last year, my play Errors Before Errors, written for American Shakespeare Center’s Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries contest was chosen for the finals. It ultimately went nowhere but…for a moment, visions of an anachronistic homecoming and a living writer’s wage flashed before my eyes. When I applied to the Eugene O’Neill again, in the fall, I submitted the play that had been (almost) successful at the ASC. It seemed like a good strategy to push forth a previously successful(ish) work. The rejection arrived in the mail and it had not even made the semi-finals. What works for one company does nothing for another.

Also in the mail, I received the expected New Dramatist’s rejection. For my more successful playwriting peers, that is the rejection that tends to sting the hardest. For me, it barely registers – so far outside the circle am I. It could be a life changer, for sure, if it were ever to come to pass. But the rejection was not at all unexpected.

Finally, I learned about The Great Plains Theatre Conference from a local booking agent. I thought maybe she was just talking up her local theatre thing but it turns out the GPTC is pretty prestigious and whatnot. It’s good that I applied but, surprise! I was rejected.

I feel like this rejection post is somewhat unusual in that all of these rejections are for playwriting. Usually, it’s much more of a mix. I don’t know whether I’m concentrating on playwriting more or whether it just shook down this way. I do think the two almost yeses I got last year did push me a little more in this direction. Whether that’s for good or ill, I do not know. I’ll let you know if people suddenly start clamoring for my plays.

And finally – I thought I’d add a little math to these rejection posts – especially since I’m paying for more of my submissions than I used to.


O’Neill – $35
Great Plains – $10
Total outlay – $45

Patreon payment for this post: $127 (Thank you, Patrons!)
Gain – $82

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections and doing this math? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

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This Is My Motherf—ing Brand

(If the title hasn’t already tipped you off, there will be a great many f-bombs in this post.)

I went to a conference for “creators” and of course there was a session on branding because that’s the world we live in now. I did not attend because that is my motherfucking brand. My brand is that I don’t fucking believe in branding.

You know where we get the idea of branding? From actual white hot branding. Can’t tell the cows apart? Put a brand on their rumps. Whose cow is this? Check the logo burned into its rear. You know WHY branding became a part of advertising? It’s a way to distinguish identical things. Can’t tell the difference between the cans of cola? Put different logos on them. My motherfucking brand is no brand. If you can’t tell who I am without a branding, I can’t help you.

We live in a world of branding now – we talk about things being “on brand” in just regular conversation. Personal Branding is a thing. If you make things or work in any creative capacity, you have probably been encouraged to work on your brand. I know I have.

I understand that it makes sense to create a narrative and/or identity around what you do. I have a mission statement for my theatre company. I suppose you could frame that as a brand (OMG, please don’t) but a mission feels very different to me. As an individual artist, writer, etc – I also operate on a mission basis and not on brand.

I’m pretty sure that the people who support me know that. I’d bet the vast majority of my patrons on Patreon see their support of me as service, as contributions to the greater good – even though, as an individual, I am not tax deductible. (My theatre company is a 501c3, though.)

Since I went to Patreon’s conference a few months ago (the aforementioned conference for creators,) I have been wrestling with the discomfort I feel around the whole enterprise. On one hand, I am awash in gratitude for the structure Patreon provides. By making trusted space for people to support me, it has allowed me to begin to make a living doing what I do. It allows me to be of service to my whole community. That is a thing of beauty. On the other hand, Patreon is kind of Brand Central Station. It is a business that makes its money on the support of people supporting creators/makers/artists. They have been hugely profitable by taking a cut of patron’s generosity.

But everyone does that. Kickstarter. Indiegogo. Crowdrise. Go Fund Me. All of those platforms do the very same. I just raised $2550 on Indiegogo for a project and they took $208.50. Crowdfunding is a big money maker for the owners of those platforms (less so for the people on them.)

When it first started, Patreon pitched itself as a way to support artists – that is, as a kind of service. Now it explains what it does as powering “membership businesses for creators.” I’ve seen this transition in progress – and find myself questioning what it means (because that is my motherfucking brand.) While I am on board for the ongoing support, I do not see myself as a business (or a brand!) I have missions. I have purpose. I’m trying to make art. Not everyone there is.

Patreon is for “creators.” The actual artists I met at PatreCon could be counted on one hand. And I wouldn’t even need all my fingers for the counting.

I did, though, meet a guy who puts casts on people. Not like sculptural casting. No. Casts – like for broken arms or legs but without injury. I mean. No disrespect to Kevin. He was a very nice guy. But he’s not making art.

He is making money, though. Unlike me. Kevin makes money. I make art. I guess that’s my motherfucking brand.

People aren’t giving Kevin their money out of desire to be of service. They give him money so that he’ll put a cast on them or so they can watch a video of him putting a cast on an attractive young woman. There are more Kevins than there are of me. And Patreon makes its money on the Kevins. It also makes its money on the “content creators” like the guy who spearheaded the Gamergate campaign and makes misogynistic harassment videos directed at Anita Sarkeesian.

It doesn’t make much money on art. Art isn’t profitable, folks.

There are exceptions, of course. But in the old days, arts’ unprofitability was why it was something rich folks supported for the public good. Our new ruling class rulers – i.e. the dudes at the head of Silicon Valley companies – don’t support the arts the way the ruling class of old did. Zuckerberg probably doesn’t sit on the board of a ballet company and Tom of Twitter probably isn’t supporting the opera. The head of Patreon probably doesn’t either – despite all the talk of supporting creators. What gets done for the public good anymore?

Do we have to search for our public good in hidden pockets of digital platforms? What are we going to do when there’s no more art – only brands? No more artists, just content creators? No more art scenes, just income generation?

And as lovely as the good people who work at Patreon are (and they are very lovely) their salaries are paid by a cut of all of the patron’s money once a month. It’s more like a bank than a mecca of creativity. I adored every employee I met while at PatreCon AND I have a lot of questions about what all this is for. But then – that IS my motherfucking brand.

For example, at the final talk of conference, the CEO asked for the creators to ask hard questions. The first question was what the company was doing about the Hate still on the platform. (Last I checked the guy who made misogynist harassment videos was making $8k a month on the platform.) The CEO hedged and said they were doing their best but it’s hard, you know, because it’s somebody’s living. The next question was what he planned to do with the money once the shareholders had been repaid. And he said “This is what keeps me up at night.”

And there it is. It’s the profitability concern that keeps him up at night. Not the misogynist hater making his living destroying the livelihoods of women. But about how to raise profits for shareholders. The Second question was the actual answer for the first.
All of that gives me the creeps.
But it is coupled with a charmingly candid conference closing speech and a CEO who makes things and seems to have his heart in the right place even if it fails to deal effectively with misogyny. The creeps are counter balanced by a staff of many bad ass women and everyone just trying to do their best.

I see all that and I really appreciate it but I am twisted up by the questions. Which is, of course, my motherfucking brand.

Digital platforms aren’t neutral. They are businesses. Hopefully we all know that now, after the revelations about Facebook. None of them are perfect. Not even the ones that provide structures for us to survive.

We are all striking a kind of devil’s bargain to continue our lives on line – and possibly off, as well. We know Facebook and Twitter have some major problems but for those of us who still use them, the good outweighs the bad. I’d like for Patreon to be exceptional – to be of real service to artist, to be the true new patronage but I know it’s ultimately most accountable to its share holders.

I know this seems ungrateful – but biting the hand that feeds me is very on brand for me, wouldn’t you say? The thing is, Patreon doesn’t actually do much for me besides process credit cards. They provide the structure that allows people to feel comfortable giving people like me money on a regular basis – which is not nothing. Giving people a way to support me is huge. No one was giving me money once a month before Patreon came in to my life, believe me. And having a platform people trust helps facilitate that. I’m clear that there isn’t any other structure in place that has people’s trust enough to fund me through it.

This whole rant here might lead you to think I’m mad at Patreon but I’m really not. I’m super grateful (in a questioning way.) What I’m mad at is the sidelining of art, the blending of art into commerce, the branding of art and the branding of humans. I’m mad that when future generations look back at art movements of our time, they’re more likely to look at brand evolutions than art revolutions. I’m mad about the branding of culture and the dissolution of art for art’s sake. I’m mad that almost every artist I know feels inadequate about how impossible it is to make a living as an artist. And sure, I’m mad that Patreon, that I thought was an artist driven structure is just a money making content container – made for the management of porn, hate and commerce, like everywhere else on the internet. But I’m not mad at Patreon. It’s just doing like everyone else does.

Patreon is not a non-profit. It’s a business. Currently, it’s a business that provides a structure that allows people to support me, hallelujah. But businesses are not neutral. They exist to make money. Art does not make money. “Content” does. “Content” needs branding. How am I to know which content fits my personal brand if the content doesn’t have on-brand packaging?

And still, I know enough about branding, from just living in these times, breathing this capitalist air, to recognize when I’m falling into branding tropes. I can’t help feeling like not having a fucking brand is just another way to have a brand these days. Like one of those ironic ad campaigns. And what the hell am I selling?

My Patreon page? My second Patreon page that I just launched? I don’t actually think I’m doing a great job at that if that’s it. Though it is sort of on-brand for my Gen X anti-selling selling. Ack! Is there nothing unbranded anymore? Can we not live without labels and brands and logs and such? Is my motherfucking brand really not having a motherfucking brand? How do we shake free of this branded world?


This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes


Did I totally sell you on my motherfucking brand?

Support me. Become my patron on Patreon.

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

Or buy me a “coffee” at Ko-fi.

Something Old and Something New
November 22, 2017, 1:00 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , ,

One of the funny things about spending years applying for (and getting rejected from) things is that you start to see patterns in the application cycles, as well as the rejection cycles. I know when things I have applied for before have had changes in their structure or staff because their timing shifts.

And because of that, I was 99.9999% sure I’d already been rejected by the New Victory Theatre before my friend from there passed along my rejection via Facebook messenger. But, that was the first time I’ve gotten a rejection notice via that platform – so that’s new, even if the rejection is old.

And the Queen’s Council for the Arts, which is an organization I’ve been rejected by in the past, had a new funding opportunity: commissions. And I am really glad to see funding taking this turn – I’d love to see more of that kind of opportunity – even if I did get rejected from this one. (97 applications. 4 receive commissions.) The organization rejecting me is old but the program is new. In any case, I’d love to see the new thing in this rejection drama be a juicy acceptance. But we never really know where that’s coming from.

And since none of the many residencies I’ve applied for have panned out, I’m making my own, with the support of two of my patrons here on Patreon. So – in my Make Your Own Acceptance project, I am in Vancouver now to finally take the time I need to edit my first draft of my novel for young people. I don’t need no stinking official acceptance letters, y’all. (Not true, I’d like a basket of them but this is a great thing, too.)

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You can help ease the sting of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page


This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.


Apparently, Being a Sexist Jerk Pays Well

Perhaps this isn’t news to you. Probably especially not this year. Not in 2017 when we’ve seen one of the biggest sexist jerks around continue to profit on his sexist jerkholery. But… this isn’t about that. This is about a smaller corner of the sexist landscape.

One of my feminist heroes is Anita Sarkeesian who has been making videos at Feminist Frequency since 2009. My personal favorites were her looks at Legos and her explanation of the Bechdel test. (This was before the Bechdel test was common knowledge – an evolution that I suspect that Sarkessian had a hand in.) You may have started to hear about her after her Kickstarter campaign to make videos about women in videogames triggered a terrible hate campaign against her. Then the parade of horrors known as Gamergate began to target her as well.

I recently read an article about her experience of speaking on a panel at a video conference and being harassed in person. There’s a lot to take in in this article – but the thing that shook me rather badly was the fact that two of the leaders of Gamergate and Sarkeesian’s harassers-in-chief both make their living from making videos about their harassment and get their support through Patreon. The article reports that one makes $5000 a month from his videos and the other $3000 a month.

Why did this particular fact shake me? Because I use Patreon, too. I think of it as a noble enterprise providing funding for artists of all kinds, a new patronage. Knowing that the architects of one of the most infamous harassment campaigns in the last few years are receiving support on the same platform that I use makes me incredibly uncomfortable. And the fact that they make six times more than I do at it makes me feel even worse.

The disturbing truth would appear to be that being a sexist harasser is more profitable than being a feminist writer. And it has likely always been thus. Patreon is just highlighting a pattern that has been long established in the culture. It seems like capitalism works really well for sexists. That may be one reason the sexism sticks around.

Also, in the wake of recent events, it has come to light that a great many of the men in white supremacist movements got their start in MRA movements, that is – Gamergate was the gateway drug for joining the ranks of white supremacy. The one thing mass murderers and terrorists have in common is a tendency to be domestic abusers. It is the number one predictor of future violence.

I mean, it makes sense. If you begin by not seeing women as human beings, by being cruel and threatening to people you don’t see as people, by fantasizing about violence, why not expand into hating more people? You’ve already begun by hating half the population. You might as well, I guess. There is a major connection between these men’s inability to see women as people and leaning into white victimhood. As this article in The Cut says:

“If you can convince yourself that men are the primary victims of sexism, it’s not hard to convince yourself that whites are the primary victims of racism.”

I wrote the first draft of this earlier this summer, before the invasion of Charlottesville, before the lid was removed from the pot on the depth of depravity of the revitalized white supremacists and some things have changed and some have not. On the plus side, some tech companies stood up and denied service to hate groups they were previously hosting. Patreon sort of is and sort of isn’t standing up on this point. They removed right-wing activist, Lauren Southern, from their platform. This led her supporters to invent something called Hatreon. Where, I guess hate groups can crowdfund themselves in peace? Anyway – turns out this woman didn’t get cut from the platform because she’s spewing hate, she got cut for “risky behavior.” Meanwhile, Sarkeesian’s harasser-in-chief has increased his monthly take on Patreon from $5k to $8k in the last few months. It’s not getting better, folks, it’s getting worse.

When I read this story about Sarkeesian’s experience, I thought – “Should I leave Patreon? Is it right to be a part of a platform that enables sexist harassers?” and I think, if there were another platform like Patreon, I would switch to it immediately. (Like, “Actual Art-eon”? “No Nazis, just Art-treon?” I don’t  know.) I thought Patreon was a place for artists not harassment campaigns …but as no one has yet developed an artist funding platform for feminists, I think my best move is to stay where I am and somehow find a way to at least match the funding of the sexist jerk brigade. So if you want to help this feminist writer do at least as well as a sexist jerk, click here to find out about becoming a patron.

It’s possible right? For a feminist to do better than a sexist? Damn, I hope so.

And it doesn’t have to be me. I want to boost feminists and artists of color and people with disabilities and anyone else who is particularly vulnerable to the evils of hate. I did a search in Patreon and I gotta tell you, my extremely unscientific survey says, it pays a WHOLE LOT MORE to be a sexist jerk than to be a feminist. Or just to be a woman.

Here are some suggestions of some underfunded artists:

Jay Justice. Cosplayer, costumer, builder, gamer, writer, etc

Feministing for Change

Women in Comics Collective International

Disability Visibility Project

STEM and Disability Activism

Transgender Civil Rights Activist, Danielle Muscato

Marina Watanabe – Feminist Fridays

A Feminist Paradise

Feminist Killjoys, Phd

Monica Byrne – feminist sci fi writer

Faithless Feminist

Bree Mae – Disability, Queer, Mental Health advocate

I only knew a couple of these before I started searching, if you are a feminist or intersectional activist I can boost here, please let me know. I want us all to do better than the sexist jerks.


The 2016 Best of the Blog and Thank You notes for my patrons.

You can help me beat the sexist jerks by

Becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page


This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. If you liked the blog and want to support it but aren’t quite ready for patronage on Patreon, You can tip me a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.


Rejections of May, like sweet flowers, Bloom
May 31, 2017, 12:36 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , , ,

The nice thing about NOT applying to places like the Millay Colony (which is reported to be a place of artistic magic and wonder) is that you can imagine how great it might be if you ever got it together to apply. That’s how it used to be for me.

However, I have now applied so many times, I could buy a couple of weeks worth of groceries with my application fees.

Luckily, my patrons at Patreon make that outlay of cash worth the price of rejection as I now get paid more to get rejected than I pay to apply. Is it discouraging to be so often rejected? Absolutely. Every time.

But on the bright side, if I’d gotten accepted, I’d not be writing this post now. I’d be suiting up to go write at a residency, where I can promise you, I would not be blogging until I returned because I’d be head first into my creative writing. It’s May. It’s Millay Rejection Month.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.


You can support me by becoming my patron on Patreon.


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page


This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

Princess Grace Award Rejection
January 4, 2016, 12:29 am
Filed under: Rejections, writing | Tags: , ,

Every year I apply. Every year I am rejected. But that is almost everyone. It’s one of those awards that is actually quite useful in that there’s real money at stake – so even though EVERYONE applies for it and almost NO ONE stands a chance – you sort of feel like you have to try anyway. It’s a little futile dance almost every playwright does every year – because they do have to give it to SOMEONE. Someone does have to win it. It’s just never been anyone I know. And I know a lot of playwrights.

But it would be weird if it were someone I knew, right?

Like – what would it be like if you knew the winner of the Nobel prize?

Actually the odds are better of knowing someone with a Nobel as they give out a lot more of those.


*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You can help me weather the storms of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

The Benefits of (even small amounts of) Patronage
March 24, 2015, 10:48 pm
Filed under: art, business, Rejections | Tags: , , ,

Over on Patreon, a small but amazing group of people have pledged to donate a little bit of money each time I post a blog here on Songs for the Struggling Artist. The experience has been very moving to me and has made a difference in a number of ways.
1) It helps me to get closer to winning the rent game every month
2) It helps me feel like I’m not writing in vain – that there are people who support me in doing it, every single time, no matter what kind of crap I set down. (And the process of being any kind of artist means setting down some crap sometimes.)
3) Ever since one of my patrons suggested using the blog and Patreon to help solve my dilemma around the constant rejections I was receiving, I have found myself able to apply for a number of things I might otherwise have missed.

I’ll explain that last one. Every time I get a rejection notice, I write a blog. When I post each blog to Patreon, I get a little bit of money. Not a lot. But enough to make a difference. For example, there was a residency that sounded great but with an application fee of $25, it was cost prohibitive to apply. When you’re struggling to pay the rent, putting up $25 to probably be rejected by something just isn’t good math. But now that each of my rejection notices earns me a little bit above that (as long as I write a blog,) I will actually MAKE a little money on that rejection letter. The math gets a lot better and allows me to apply for things I could never have considered before.

Another example: Last year, I was rejected for a program that I really really wanted to get. That application came back around this year and I had nothing to propose but the same project that had previously been rejected. To apply again would be, sure, on one hand, a good idea, just in case – but almost certainly sure to yield me another rejection notice.

Before Patreon, I would have saved myself the time and trouble and pride swallowing and just let that application deadline slide on by. But because I knew my patrons were in my corner, I swallowed the hurt I’d felt from the previous rejection, polished up the play I was submitting and gave it another shot. Now, I could maybe afford to buy myself a martini when I get rejected again.


If I could find a way to progress in my artist career without this roller coaster of application and rejection, I would – but for the moment, the only way out of it is through it and the more help I have in the slog, the more likely other ways open up. I would never have thought of this solution but I’ve found it to be a profound one. And I wonder what other secret solutions for solving the arts crisis are waiting to be discovered.

Are there other secret Arts Supports hiding out there that we don’t yet see? If you’ve seen them, let know. It feels important to share.

I read this review of a book about what’s happening to the Arts and Journalism and creativity in this country. It is a terrible crisis. The review beautifully (and painfully) sums up something I feel at a gut level. Read it if you can. And as an antidote for the troubling news in it, keep your eyes open for other models of support – like the one that is currently making such a difference in this artist’s life.

Want to join the merry band of awesomeness that is my group of patrons?


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

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