Recently, I took the big step of overhauling my Patreon project and reducing the number of tiers and offerings.I'm still sharing stories and art, but at lower rates ($1 and $2 monthly). I'm also beginning to share my mixed media comics, which are graphic memoir-esque and both funny and reflective.
The post below is my first Patreon post of 2019. I'm sharing it here because it's about the ups-and-downs of the creative process. On Patreon, this post is embellished with comics. The with-comic post is for Patrons only, but if you'd like to join Patreon, just visit stormrowstudio on Patreon and follow the prompts to join a tier.
People find where they belong, or keep on. The Wolves and the Ravensby Chris Koza of Rogue Valley
I didn’t celebrate my one-year anniversary on Patreon. I didn’t raise a glass, give a shout, or even make note. The anniversary came. The anniversary went. Life had thrown a lot my way in late 2018 and Patreon wasn’t on my mind much. Besides, it didn’t feel right. I hadn’t created a post in months, and because of new responsibilities, I wouldn’t be able to post the large volume of content I’d been posting. In fact, long before the anniversary, I recognized the slow down and asked my highest tier Patrons to downgrade their subscription.
It was always my plan to have a fair balance between content and contributions, so asking Patrons to modify their giving felt just. Providing a good deal of content in the first six months gave me solace. Also, from the beginning, I accepted Patreon as the kind of experiment that needed monitoring, adjustment, and flexibility.
Still, my last posts date to August 2018—the time when I first admitted I was low on fuel—and by December, I still hadn’t figured out how to make Patreon work. So what was there to celebrate? Fair, level-headed management of the site and patronage? No. No hoorays to that. Especially with such a low patron count. Some might even say, “What’s to manage?”
Whether a big shot or a newbie, Patreon is an experiment for everyone. For a nobody like me, though, it’s important to go in accepting that there may be few patrons and even fewer payouts. It’s also imperative to value even one patron and every single dollar. I take that part seriously. I also value the space Patreon allows me—a space for dedicated art sharing, with tools to support unique storytelling. Plus, it helped me explore schedule-making and schedule-keeping and served as a landing pad for lots of older work and ideas that needed the light of day.
But even with the busyness of life problems whirling around me, I could see something wasn’t working on the site. Sure, I had loads of looks and views and traffic, but those visits did not convert visitors into paying audience members. Which is the point of Patreon. To develop either a supplementary or complete income by entertaining, teaching, or showing process. For me, I’d hoped to reach the one-year point and have expanded my circle a layer or two beyond my main sphere of influence—close friends and family—but I didn’t.
So, here’s a complicated mix of circumstances and feelings:
I’m overwhelmed with regular life stuff. It’s negatively impacting my creative life stuff. But I barely have an audience, so who cares? Well, I care. If I had the people in the marketplace, I’d feel supported. I’d feel validated. And support and validation in such an important area of my life would bolster me. Also, I’d have income to help solve the problems with regular life stuff. But I don’t have enough customers, clients, or patrons to choose creative-work over life-work, so I must set the creative aside to find solutions to all this other mess. Later, I’ll build the business. Later.
And that word—later—leads to the one question Creatives repeat whenever life disrupts an artrepreneurial endeavor.
Can the creative life really be so fragile?
Yes. It can. And it is. And whether you’re surrounded by Creatives and Makers or know just a few, I bet if asked, each would tell you about at leastone project halted because of a life task that exists simply by being a human on earth. If you happen to ask an artist who is highly responsible and overachieving, you might hear about several projects halted and many stop-starts. And if you ask an artist who is highly responsible, overachieving,andmakes very little money from their craft, you could hear about an entire creative dream tossed away in order to complete the business of life.
Why does this happen?
Health, home, relationships. All vital parts of life worth looking after. By taking care of these, a person sets a foundation that holds through the darkest, dreariest, roughest storms. We must have steady good health to function. The daily doings to get there are different for each of us, but consistency is key. We must have a home base to feel secure. The place will look different for each of us, but a safe shelter is necessary. We must also have solid relationships to thrive. Here, things don’t look so different for each of us. Whether personal, professional, and even short-lived, well-formed relationships built on trust and respect provide the support and structure that keep our heads up and hearts forward.
Paying attention to these areas of life is a job itself. But paying attention doesn’t pay a salary, and when it comes to health and home, there are bills. And if it happens that a thing or two slips through the cracks for someone you care about, you might just take on the extra, unpaid work of helping your loved one with theirhealth, home, or relational misstep. This feels good andthere are bills.
So, the next question:
In the face of overwhelming outside influences, how do the Creatives and Makers with few clients and little income stay motivated to make art?
Sitting around, shooting the shit with other Creatives, this question is mostly unspoken but deeply understood. Aloud, we wonder if someone has found the magic combination to managing time, setting boundaries, and handling general overwhelm. No. Not really. There are try-this tricks, but no guarantees. We wake up, do what we can, and when we crawl into our nests at night, we hope for more time or quiet or energy or calm the next day. Each of us will do something different when a good chunk of time, quiet, energy, or calm is available to us. Some artists organize. Some jump in and work on anything, everything. Some need to sleep or exercise to renew their physical selves and creative spirit. But, if life’s stuff is particularly heavy, we might fall into a creative void or paralysis that no amount of free time can resolve. We just have to wait for the heavy stuff to pass. It’s fine. We aren’t losing established clients or income. They don’t exist for us yet.
For me, though, it’s not fine. The past seven months have been a mix of all of the above and my paralysis exists only in sharing. I didn’t have much to share. I didn’t have time to share. I didn’t care to share. And from my perspective, the world of online art-sharing is full and robust and my measly contribution seems unnecessary. With that said, I’ll make a bold statement.
Art is hard.
This is not a statement made to support the clichéd starving artist stereotype. What I’m trying to do is admit that, for me, making art is extraordinarily difficult when paired with human tasks and problems. Two things are true. I want and need to earn a living from art andI have responsibilities that limit the time I can give to art.
However, if artists like me, who struggle to balance life and art-making, don’t put their craft on the same level as health, home, and relationships, there’s a very real danger that our creative life will become what some suggest it is—a hobby.
That’s where I stop questioning and draw the line.
I may not have a significant following. I may not get support from those I pointedly ask to support me. I may have to give up being so helpful and giving to others. I may even appear self-serving and selfish. I may stumble and I may fail. But goddamnit, I must be responsible to my artistic ideas. Because, for me, art ishealth. Art ishome. Art isa relationship. With myself. My true self. My worker self.
Yes, I’m a worker. In art and in life, I get in there and get my hands dirty. Constructing and making. Handling and fixing. Typing, writing, painting, stitching, cutting. Assembling and then holding and carrying to a place of offering. I’m realizing, though, that life, and all its tasks and troubles, have been getting the lion’s share of hands-on work and what I have to offer.
So, now I can step away from this observation and insert myself back where I belong—in the picture. There’s a different view from here. One outlined by the solid line I’ve drawn to protect and grow my creative life and studio business. And the changes to my Patreon project also have clear boundaries. I’ll be doing more with specific ideas—story shorts and comics for $1 and style posts for $2. All the other stuff I’ve done and shared here on Patreon falls outside the limits of my available time. It mostly always did. Who knows if it’ll ever interest anyone, but I made an attempt to include it all and that effort remains archived here, in older posts.
I hope you’ll enjoy storm row studio’s fresh start, and maybe—just maybe—next March we can celebrate a year of improved Patreon offerings.