Songs for the Struggling Artist

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

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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