Tapped Out?

Image via Wikipedia Commons

I’ve been working on a short story. It’s supposed to be slightly horror – that is, it should unsettle the reader, though won’t likely scare anyone. A horrific thing happens and you can see the lead up to it, but because of the viewpoint, the reader never gets all the information and when the story concludes, they’re likely to have more questions than answers.

I’ve never written one like this before, and that was the point of it. I wanted to stretch myself, challenge myself as a writer, and so I came up with a few ideas that I thought might help me do that.

Problem is, I haven’t been working on it.

This may mean nothing – I haven’t been working on anything lately. I have a painting on my easel, just waiting for me to get back to it, a watercolour planned, a diorama kit of an abandoned gas station I’d like to get to, and some felt soft sculptures that need finishing. Instead, I’ve been thinking about other people’s writing, trying to make some room in my tiny cottage by going through three boxes of long unplayed LPs, gardening, and working on my family’s history.

This isn’t unusual for me. My creative output is always low because I’m easily distracted by all of the other things that interest me – volcanoes, history, political science, mind science, and everything I’ve never heard of before. Lately, I’ve had a near-obsession with Ancestry.com and working my way up and down the family tree in every direction. This is complicated by the fact that I’m also working on my late husband’s family tree at the same time.

But getting back to the story.

So distraction is part of the problem, but I try to at least write 200 words a day. Very little, considering I have done upwards of 3-4K a day, when I’m on writing fire. Which I’m not with my writing lately. In the olden days, and with most of the very short fiction I post here, the writing sort of took off and I was just along for the ride. Hasn’t been like that with my longer works – I struggle to feel my way through as though I’m blindfolded rather than the helter-skelter gallop I have been used to and got high off of.

That’s obviously another part of the problem.

Distraction I can – and have – dealt with. But it’s not a problem, when I’m fully invested in the work. Yep, there’s the real issue – I’m not fully invested in the work. And I don’t know why. Other stories I’ve told were just as complicated and I had no difficulty starting or continuing. If anything, I had difficulty turning off the flow at any point.

The only thing that comes to mind is that maybe I’m overthinking. Trying to infuse what I write with as much literary goodness as possible might have sucked all the fun out of the process and caused the tap to close. And while the desire to open the tap is there, the handle seems to have been mislaid.

How I can fix this, I’m not sure. But I know that, in the meantime, I have to work on finding the discipline I need to continue putting the words down, even if they’re only 200 at a time. If I let myself off the hook for one day, getting back to it the next day is harder and the temptation to skip another day is easier.

One day, I hope I can find the handle for that tap and see my words flowing freely again. Until then, I’ll have to savor each drop I get.

Crowdfunding – Begging or Investing?

After a few jobs as this and that, I finally found my niche as a technical writer of user manuals in the new field of computer software. It was a wild and wooly time and the stories I could tell… Not too long after starting this career, I was found to have a knack for copywriting as well as user manuals, so I found myself dividing my time between working with engineers and working with marketing. I also helped out designing materials for trade shows and working the shows themselves. So I was not only writing to serve the purpose of informing the customers about how to use what they had purchased, but also writing to invite them to invest in what we had to offer – to become a customer.

And this experience has shaped how I see crowdfunding for creative projects.

I moderate #LitChat on Writing Wednesdays on Twitter, and recently we talked about funding the writing life.

Most writers work full-time jobs. They have to because most of us have mortgages, kids, and an unfortunate desire to eat regular meals and having a job makes all of these easier. Some of us have retired (or been retired) and though our pensions aren’t lavish, they allow us the freedom to write without a lot of worry. Some of us (as I used to do) write nonfiction (articles, papers, marketing materials) as a regular job and fight against writing fatigue at the end of the day to get in a few hundred words on our fiction.

And some of us turn to crowdfunding.

A couple of the writers on the chat today surprised me by equating crowdfunding with begging and one stunned me by calling it degrading.

Begging, I tweeted, is saying please give me money. Crowdfunding is saying I have a great idea. Join in if you think it’s great, too.

There’s no begging going on in projects presented on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, or the site I heard of just today, Pubslush. I’ve helped fund several creative projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, including a graphic novel, a film, and a web series. The same writer who called crowdfunding degrading also said that if “funding” was needed, it was not a job. In a sense that’s true. But you’re not asking people to support a job – you already have a job, finding funding for your project and then producing it. What you’re looking for in crowdfunding is investors – people who view your pitch and decide whether or not they like the idea enough to put money into it. It’s give and take on both sides, while begging is a one-way transaction: you give, I take.

When you give money to someone who’s begging, you give it in the hope they will use it wisely – for food, for shelter (please note that there are sites, like GoFundMe, for funneling cash to people with a problem, but those are different from crowdfunding a project). When people invest in a crowdfunded project, whether it’s a graphic novel or installing solar powered lights in homes without electricity, or a museum, the investor knows what they will get in return for their money. It’s a contract, even if the contract isn’t written out on paper. And, like every investor ever in the history of time, you put in your money with the hope the project will be successful. That’s it. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and your reasons for investing are your own.

With crowdfunding, the rewards are spelled out and generally not big – one of the products once it goes into production, your name in the credits, a tee-shirt. Of course, the bigger the investment, the bigger the reward, like being flown to Italy for the opening.

Two good things about crowdfunding: One is that you almost always get the reward you expect, whether the project does well over the long run or not, and you don’t have to be rich to invest. You find a project that interests you and you throw a little money at it, then you sit back and see how it does. And you do get regular updates on that.

Not begging. Definitely not begging. And nowhere near degrading.

Obviously, I’m very puzzled by the attitude that it might be. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly get that impression, unless they’ve never checked out a crowdfunding site. They’re not charities, although charities are not beggars, either. Every nonprofit I know goes to a lot of trouble to tell you how they use your donated monies.

Nope. I just don’t get it, and I think that writers with a great idea for a series or a graphic novel or screenplay or anything else creative who won’t consider crowdfunding are cheating themselves of an opportunity.

NOTE: I don’t like the term ‘begging,’ anyway. Individuals sometimes have problems they can’t solve by themselves and they ask for help from family, from their community, and it’s usually to help them get going again on their own. I’ve heard that some people can make a living from begging, but I’ve never met anyone who has.

Update: Crowdfunding is also a way to market your brand