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pre-s. You can watch me ramble this week's letter here. Or settle in, and read it below. :)
About two months ago now, I shared an internal struggle I've wrestled with for years - between making "useful" things, and making art.
So many people wrote back, and to be honest, the responses overwhelmed me. I cried. And laughed. I raved and walked around my house giddy, grateful, grinning.
Because you folks said, um, Steven, we know. The art's what we've been here for the whole time.
In the weeks since, that support has pushed me in both writing and filmmaking to just focus on the work, to share things I've held back, to make the best damn thing I can, and not worry about if it's useful. And seeing some of the things up ahead, I know I've just scratched the surface.
And it's given me the courage me to take one more big, scary step. An eek-step. To ask you and this community to support me as a full-time writer, film-maker, and monster-creator.
So, I'm starting a Patreon. And I'm asking you for your help in making this my actual, sustainable full-time job. :)
I know. It feels crazy and backwards at the moment we find ourselves in history.
Between the pandemic and the social justice issues it's brought to the surface all across the globe, this seems like the absolute last time I should be trying to launch a Patreon. There are many, many great places to put your money right now.
But it also feels like the exact right time. One of the best things art can give us is new perspectives and lenses, metaphors that help us make sense of the world. To connect us to each other and to what's really happening. Give us ways of wrapping our heads and hearts around what we see, hear, and feel.
It's funny - I've always seen these letters as a vehicle for connection. Connecting each of us to the friends we haven't met yet, all across the world.
When I started these letters, it was just me - some guy traveling around the world, and writing about what he saw. But as they've grown, something amazing has happened.
The audience who reads them - all of you - have turned out to be this beautifully diverse set of people from all across the planet. You're from different societies, walks of life, careers. You span the range of ages and religions, gender identities and skin tones.
And it means that every week, something magical happens. See, from your perspective, you're going about your normal day, open your inbox, and get my letter. If it really catches you, sometimes you'll write back.
But from where I'm sitting, I send out the letter - and then over the next couple of days, replies come in, from all over the globe. Glimpses of lives and connection. Summer and winter. Cities and farms. Little glimpses back, from people whose names I've gotten to know, whose stories I know bits of, who I care about and think about throughout my week.
For years, I've been trying to figure out how to share that magic - how to connect you to each other, so you all can get to experience it. I've tried stuff like the reader roundtable last summer. A chat room, a few years before that. I've avoided the obvious answer of social media because, well, they're intentionally addictive and trying to hurt us. I hadn't yet found anything that could really make it work.
And as this community has grown, I've also been trying to figure out how to make a living as a writer. I think a lot of folks know this, but for most of the years I've been writing these letters, they've been a side hustle, while I worked as a programmer or leading teams in a day job.
There have only been two times in the nearly six years I've been sending these letters that they've been my full-time job: the Summer and Fall of 2016, and the past few months. And they've been busy.
In those six months in 2016, I wrote and published The No-Bullshit Guide to Depression, created the Two-Year Life Plan, and wrote what I still consider to be my best series of letters, from Japan.
In these past two months, I've started adding in film - layering images and music into what we're sharing. Re-launched Mindful Browsing and new editions of The No-Bullshit Guide. I even finally finished animating Eek, and shared him with you last week. And I'm looking at the list on my desk - and there's even more great stuff ahead.
When I look at all that, I think - well, I think what I've thought the whole time. I have to find some way to do this, full-time.
I've looked at a bunch of options over the years. Selling the No-Bullshit Guide to a big publishing house - but it'd force me to stop providing it for free to folks who need it, and spend more time than I can honestly handle talking about depression. Tried making a bunch of courses to sell - but it changed these letters into selling you stuff instead of this authentic connection and art. Thought about a half-dozen other ways people do this - ads and sponsors and all the usual things. But none of them really fit this thing we're doing, that we have together.
Then, about a month ago, I took another look at Patreon. I'd considered it about four years ago, but there wasn't much to it. It allowed people to donate, but they didn't get anything in return.
But in the years since, the platform has grown - it's become a place that a community can actually engage with each other. When I looked at the things we could do there now, everything clicked. Patreon was a place that could enable this community to connect, and support me in having the time to make you the best stuff I'm capable of.
I dug in to what we could do there, and found so many ideas that I'm excited to explore with all of you. Things like a series of weekly creative prompts called Glimpses, where all of you can share and read quick views of your lives, your worlds. Behind-the-scenes views into things I'm working on, pieces I don't end up sending out, extra moments of beauty.
I dreamed further ahead, to when global travel eventually resumes, about an even more collaborative relationship, with this community helping decide where I go, and what you want to see and hear and learn about. And I started making it real.
For the past month, I've been setting it up. Taking a first guess at all the stuff you might want to get for your support. Posting behind-the-scenes videos and updates for the past few weeks. Adding polls and prompts and a welcome video that includes home-made confetti. :) All to get it ready for this moment.
And now it's here. And I can't wait to get the party started. :)
If you've enjoyed these letters, or found them valuable, please consider supporting my work as a writer and filmmaker, and joining our soon-to-be awesome community at Patreon.
If that's not for you or not possible, all good. No pressure. :)
Either way, I appreciate you.
You and everyone in this community are the best part of my week. Every week. :)
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