Songs for the Struggling Artist

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

How Patronage Feels
July 15, 2014, 10:17 pm
Filed under: art, writing | Tags: , , ,

I recently published one of the first blogs I’ve posted since I joined Patreon. This means that for the first time, I will actually be paid for writing this stuff. It’s not a lot. At my current numbers, I’ll make $20. But it feels tremendously different than making no dollars for my writing.

I’ve only been paid as a writer a couple of times before (for productions of my plays at theatres and schools.) This is the first time, though, that I’ve been in a position to know that I would get paid for something I put out in the world. That is, I make something with the knowledge that there will be a financial return. It feels good, it feels direct and I start to understand what it must feel like to regularly be paid for things you value.

It feels so good to have a squad of people who like my work (or me) enough to want to support it or me. It makes me want to be better, do better, just for them.

In addition to feeling really good, this new patronage has started to shift the work itself. It’s not changing the writing so much yet. With the exception of this one, most of the current wave of blogs were written many months ago. But patronage has made a big impact on how I edit these things. It means that I take more time to look things over, to re-write. I take 4 passes at it, instead of 2. It means that I take the time to find the perfect links within a post. I take time to find the right images and I take more care with the way the text makes the switch from my word document to the wordpress platform. In general, the $20 my patrons are donating are paying me for those extra hours of care. Partly this is because I know people are paying for it but also because I know people are interested enough to support it and/or read it.

The pledges I’ll receive each time I post a blog are still nowhere close to paying me minimum wage for the hours I put into blogging, but they are a vote for this work rising up my priority list.

As a freelancer, I spend the majority of my time doing things that may or may not yield direct results. I go to networking events with the hope of meeting future clients. I update my websites with the hope that someone might end up there and hire me. I make posters and hang them in the appropriate locations. I fundraise for a project, which hopefully will be enough to pay me too. Very few things I do are a direct exchange and much of my time is spent trying to work out which thing will rise to the top of my to do list.

So this – I-write-something-and-get-paid-thing feels pretty revolutionary to me.

So, while this is, yes, a big thank you to my Patreon supporters (Thank you!) It’s also a plea for arts funding in the bigger picture. When you fund things you can make them better. Sure, that artist might make her dance without $20 . . .but $20 might buy her an extra hour of rehearsal space and that extra hour of rehearsal space allows the dancers to really drop into the piece, moving it out of adequate and into excellence.

The more directly you fund art, the more difference you will make in the work itself. That is, when you fund artists directly, rather than institutions, you can you’re your donations have immediate impact on what they are able to create. Take it from an artist who will be paid directly for her work, for the very first time.

Like the blog?


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

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Playing the Rent Game: Or, a New Way to Approach Arts Patronage
June 25, 2014, 1:13 am
Filed under: art, business, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes my patchwork, freelance, artist’s life can feel like a carnival game. I imagine it to be one of those big thermometer gauges that are usually accompanied by Strong Men in leopard print onesies with giant hammers. And every month, the game is to see if I can make rent. Each little gig adds up – $50 here, $100 there, until the red reaches the top of the thermometer and Ding! Ding! Ding! Ladies and Gentlemen, we have RENT! We have a winner!

Strong man

While I usually win the game, sometimes I don’t. And I’m always playing. This is why I have many jobs at once. But as precarious as it is, it does sometimes provide me with time and flexibility to make my art, which has always been my top priority. It’s just that mostly I don’t get paid for that bit.

I put a lot of things out into the world and almost none of them come with financial compensation. There are plays. There are theatrical events. There are songs. There are little bits of prose. There are quilts. And there’s this space here – the blog – where I write about the Arts and the many struggles associated with making a life in them. Last night, I was thinking about how I put so much content out onto the web, so many words, articles, thoughts. It would be amazing if I could get paid for some of them.

Then, today, through the Freelancers Union, I discovered Patreon. This is, it would seem, a new way to support artists and seems to do exactly what I was imagining. On the site, artists post content (seems to be mostly music videos at the moment, but I bet that’ll shift) and people pledge to support them every time they do. It’s essentially like giving a band in a bar a tip. You don’t need to pay a cover charge – you can listen to the music for free – but , if it pleases you, you can throw a buck or two in the hat. Patreon is a digital hat for content creators (i.e. artists.)

In other words, a group of people can be the patrons for an artist creating stuff. For example: A patron might pledge a dollar every time a songwriter posts a song. And while that one dollar won’t make a huge difference by itself, you get 800 people playing you a dollar for your song and suddenly you’ve won the rent game. Even if only 20 people give a dollar for your song – you’re still $20 closer to the top of the thermometer. It’s a new form of patronage and I think it’s pretty smart. So I signed up.

But what could I post? Most of my work as a performing artist is not something that translates well to the digital medium. It is one of the major downfalls to working in a Live Art.

But my work ABOUT working in Live Art lives only here in the digital world and my blog is the only thing that I create that tens of thousands of people have seen. So – it would seem like there might be at least a few of those tens of thousands who might be interested in being a part of this new form of patronage. If you’re one of them, you can support me on my profile over on Patreon.

I’ll keep posting all this content for free, of course. But you could help encourage me to create more, to write more and make more art with your patronage. (Or your tips, if you prefer that metaphor.) I don’t write for a magazine or anyone else. I’m not beholden to commercial interest or publication ethos. I actually just write this stuff for us. And maybe this Patreon thing will mean being a part of a revolutionary way to support art and creativity and free thought. I think about what Jaron Lanier says about the vanishing creative class and how the open internet that he helped build has mostly not done squat for us artists. He talks about how the culture has come to expect all its information and creative stuff for free – and this is putting journalists and artists and the bulk of the creative class out of business. I don’t know if this Patreon thing will help tip the scales back to a more generous, arts supportive world – but I’m up for giving it a shot.

And if you’re an artist, and you decide to experiment with Patreon, too – let me know how it works for you. Post your profile in the comments and maybe we create a chain of patronage – a new world of the New Economy. And all across the land, the artists who have been playing the Rent Game every month can watch the thermometer rise to the top every single time.


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