Pride and Prejudice

Dear Patreon:

Once I’ve sent out Christmas Haiku to everyone who were subscribers to my campaign on December 18th, my relationship with your platform as a creator is over. I’ll still continue to pledge to three people whose work deserves my respect and support, but I won’t be reinstated pledges I cancelled, and I certainly won’t support anyone else who uses the service again. I think it is worth explaining to you why an about face over the ridiculous issue of fees doesn’t change a single thing for someone like me.

I’m still not convinced you grasp what the problem is to begin with.

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The main reason I chose your service was not, I now realise, the convenience of a one-stop crowdfunding experience. Being busy with other things did make the platform really attractive, and that was backed up with the appearance of a group of people who appeared to genuinely care about creative process and not the bottom line. Of course it matters to get paid for your work, but with this being problematic at present in the real world, virtual success will undoubtedly begin to mirror issues elsewhere. Not everybody will be bringing in thousands of dollars a month and now you realise just how many people depended on the tiny gifts of faith to keep them sane, I suspect there could well be some pause for thought.

However, my biggest complaint, and the reason why even with the about face in your attitude I won’t return, is the belief that for every creator, money matters more than  process. It is the modern, hugely misguided belief that how much you earn is the best reflection of any true success, and when companies like you define modus operandi for the platform in financial statements… Principles matter, and cannot be swept under a carpet: when you decide to provide handy links for creators to help claw back lost cash it is clear that principle is far less important than your initial assertions would suggest. If this were just about money however it could be far more dispassionately rationalised, but there is an integrity gap that continues not to be filled, and that bothers me greatly.

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It may also seem disingenuous for me to continue funding people on your platform, but I have pledged support to these people and that will not be affected by whatever suspect business decisions you make, either now or in the future. I’m fairly confident, looking at my cancelled pledges, that those people won’t lose a lot of sleep over my principled stance either, so nobody that I care about really loses, except myself, which continues to be of some interest to those who are now approaching me with surprise. Why, if the platform was so convenient and useful, do I now decide to leave and not come back?

Your exit surveys are criminally vague when it comes to challenging pledges over reasoning: you have to care enough about someone when you take their money away to then admit the real truth as to that withdrawal of funds, and most individuals when they choose to crowdfund to begin with won’t want to admit they can no longer afford to do so on departure. Amazingly though, nobody was backwards in coming forwards around the reasons why they cancelled over this affair. Looking objectively at my individual cases, I don’t believe any more that Patreon really does care about people like them or me. From what I have seen and heard, what I believe is that it matters more to produce a profitable business model that can be sold in time to the highest bidder. I am not special or individual, we are simply users to be counted as assets.

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However, without all of this I would not have been encouraged leave and go it alone: without six months where it became apparent I had material that could be sold, there would no be the confidence to move forward and pursue my dreams. I think that’s what makes this whole sordid affair even more upsetting: I trusted your platform to mirror my own integrity, and it failed. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever. I might say that in jest, but there’s a good reason why Darcy is one of my favourite characters in English literature. He and I are both shy, nervous and reticent to reveal ourselves in public. Once we put faith in something and it becomes a personal experience, to have that faith ignored and effectively dismissed as not important is not a blow that we will easily recover from.

I don’t want to be a successful businesswoman. I need to be a happy creator. Your platform seems to believe I have to be one to become the other, and that’s not true. I don’t want to be associated publicly with people who aren’t interested in artistic integrity, unless it makes them a profit. Therefore, I’ll find another way to help support myself, and you are no longer part of that process.

I hope you think long and hard about the damage you have done, not only to your brand, but to people like me whose trust is lost forever.

Disappointing

There are lots of things I don’t talk about here. Most are hugely mundane but there’s a couple of deeply personal issues that never get to see the light of day. Yesterday, one of those made everything really difficult. Maybe one day I will get the confidence to talk about that to an audience, but conscience reminds that it is good not to put everything out in the open. It isn’t just mystery, but necessity. Despite what the Internet might tell you, sometimes you don’t need to share everything.

Yesterday was also a shedload of #FirstWorldProblems which should continue to serve as the permanent memorial, were it really needed, to an understanding that however hard things become, I get to experience them in a rarefied atmosphere. I get my feelings matter and have merit, that’s not a problem, but honestly however ‘bad’ things might appear they’re extraordinarily awesome in reality. The view of life is inevitably skewed by pressing concerns like eating and having a roof over your head, but that’s a world away from those people who don’t have either, and live their lives regardless.

This is my scheduled blog post that reminds the entitled, selfish person I can become that this is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Constant Craving

This is never a great time of year to try and lose weight. Last night, I had to make biscuits, and yes, I had to eat one because it won’t kill me. I love my daughter a great deal but right now this is roughly akin to telling an alcoholic to stop complaining and drink that bourbon. All I crave right now is sugar, and all I want to do is eat. This does not contribute to positive mental health, and frankly will only end in tears. Therefore, I’m attempting to introduce mindful eating into the routine: thus far this morning it is meeting with a measure of success.

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Because I know the sugar has to happen, and will via fruit sugar regardless (I eat porridge and pomegranate to satisfy two of my five a day) I put a small amount of honey in my tea for a mid morning snack. I then made myself take time and consideration over drinking, trying to remind brain that the only way all this long term change is truly affected is not by me binging and going backwards. That means I can treat myself to a box of chocolates for Christmas but not eat them all in a couple of sittings. I reduce the experience to two, maybe three chocolates at a time, and savour each one. It stops being just about consumption to make me feel better, and becomes a means by which I slow body and mind down.

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I’ve begun to grasp that there does not need to be more food consumed to have the level of energy required to work harder. The last few days have demonstrated that eating at a level that is sufficient to lose weight also gives me plenty of energy to run and exercise. So, knowing this, it becomes about looking at things and getting out of the ‘oh I’ll just eat and worry about it later’ mentality. Of late sugar has not been the problem, but empty carbs via pasta and bread. Both these things are quite dangerous, it transpires, as is the case with pastry. So many potential Christmas treats I could nosh and pretend its okay because its okay there’s no sugar is not going to work any more. I gotta be hard with myself, but this does not mean I have to stop eating bad stuff.

I just have to be honest over consequences, which has not been the case for a while.

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I can no longer pretend I’m being healthy, when the calories ingested aren’t then balanced with exercise on the other side of the scale. This is the massive change in outlook from previous years. It is the hardest thing to do, on top of more hard stuff, and then it is really easy to grasp why others don’t bother and kill themselves via obesity.

This time, failure will not be an option.

Silence

At about thirty five minutes into this morning’s run, I began to cry. It wasn’t pain or upset, but relief. For a very long time I’ve been afraid of what might happen if I pushed too hard: I could hurt myself, or run out of breath in my lungs. I could fall off the treadmill:  a 101 potentially disastrous situations run through my head, and my anxiety flares like a fire fed with sudden burst of oxygen. This morning, I locked it all away. The reasons why this shouldn’t happen have now been superseded by a need to prove it is possible. There cannot be any more excuses.

If you want this enough, why won’t you do it?

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There are so many fears that rise and fall within me: am I being a good mother, a decent partner, do I do enough for others… but ultimately, I always end up ignoring what it is I want most of all. I’m beginning to realise that the whole Patreon thing might yet be a blessing in disguise because, for the last six months, I ended up doing stuff I began to hate. Writing was becoming a chore when I felt that people needed to see a definitive return for their investment. I made it a job when it should be so much more and now there is a chance to sit back and look long and hard at what it is I really want to do. For now, exercise allows means to build mental strength required for the next stage of this journey.

There are a ton of things I’d like to happen, but know I have to be careful not to be distracted from what matters. That means getting my novel finished, and then edited, and then trying to find someone interested in publishing it. After that I want to keep writing other stuff: short stories, poetry and blogging remain really important, but not at the expense of making myself unhappy. It needs to be on my terms, and that’s more important than anything else. How I make that happen is now in flux, until there’s a chance to decide on a solid, comfortable path. I also know that certain things will hurt and be tough on both body and mind. If it’s doable on a piece of exercise equipment, it will be achievable on screen.

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The unexpected still has the power to derail me, as was the case yesterday, but this morning that setback was the inspiration to move forward. Instead of seeing bad things as irredeemable or obstacles, it is time to push through, over and then to look back and solve the problem. If I’m stopped then there’s the chance of not ever moving again, and this is a reality that will no longer be entertained. I don’t need inspirational speeches any more, the time for playing to the Gallery is over. This is for me now, and nobody else, and it is my soul at stake.

To be happy, I have to deal with what holds me back, and right now that is myself.

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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.

Road to Hell

I knew something was up with Patreon (I think) on Thursday, when someone who I support via the crowdfunding platform started making noise over fee changes. What I wasn’t expecting was the subsequent universal meltdown when it became apparent that my initial understanding of what was going on turned out not only to be the truth, but an intended part of the company’s business plan. I’ve spent a bit of time reading corporate forecasts over the years and know that you don’t lie to your investors if you want to remain a viable concern. This, to my eyes, is a company prepping itself to either a) get bought out by a larger concern or b) make more money than they already are. They are, in essence, a beautiful metaphor for what is considered ‘successful’ online.

Patreon have made their name by enabling individuals the company do not consider as successful. That’s a pretty significant smack in the face to someone like me for whom their platform has literally become a life-changing experience. Without this ability to sell myself to people halfway across the World, my life would not be as good as it is now. Life changing sums do not have to be in the four figure or upward range. Knowing that more than 20 people would fund me was a revelation. As a number of people withdrew their support from the platform on Friday, each one contacted me privately, pledging they would continue to support me elsewhere.

On reflection, this is how I know Patreon is not needed to move forward.

I’m still very angry, but am not going to start attacking the CEO by name or hounding people via Social media. I can be as indignant as I like: it is very clear to me, looking at the evidence now available, that this is not a decision driven by conscience. It is, purely and simply, the means by which the business encourages those who are not making enough money to leave, or those people unable to organise themselves outside the platform to remain beholden. I saw a company rep suggesting in a message on Friday that Patreon users actively encourage their users to up their pledges in order to cover the fees. I’m not about to start strong-arming people who I know are supplying me cash often simply as the equivalent of moral support to give more.

What happens next however is a lot to do with my conscience and far less to do with the platform itself, which is a change from the situation last week.

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Of the people that I support who use the platform for their own work, all are very much in too deep to easily extricate themselves without serious financial hardship. I am about to hit $1000 made since I started the Internet of Words project. This is a not inconsiderable sum, but it is not huge. What the fuss around these changes is doing is making my low level funders (of which there are many) stop having an interest in the platform. Many will legitimately cite this as a reason for stopping their payments, but for others it will be a convenient excuse to move on. For that reason alone, I think it might be the moment to reconsider what I’m doing and rethink the plan.

I’m fairly settled in what is going to happen next for the Internet of Words. I’ll make a formal announcement tomorrow on the writing blog, knowing that the people that care and wish to support me will continue to do so regardless. That’s the key here: I’m not going to be beholden to someone else in order to secure my success. I want to do this on my own, and am well aware that is possible with the right backing. I won’t judge those people either who choose not to agree with my decisions. That’s not how business works: if I make the wrong decisions, that is my choice to stand and fall beside. In effect, that’s all that’s happened here.

Sometimes, you don’t need to make money to be successful.

Won’t get Fooled Again

I’ve dropped the youngest off at school, and have popped into the closest supermarket for some milk and apples. I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper for gifts, and am in the queue to pay. Behind me, a guy empties his basket onto the conveyor belt: three bottles of expensive looking Prosecco and a copy of the Daily Mail. I look at him and almost instantly he replies: ‘I know what this looks like, but there’s a good reason for both.’

It’s 8.50am, and already the day is interesting.

He goes on to explain he only buys the paper for the crossword, that his kids abuse him but it’s a habit. Someone then told him the night before at a Christmas event just how good the wine was and that it always sold out and so he’d come to get a bottle for Christmas Day, one for a gift and one ‘to try’ to check the person who told him wasn’t lying.  I then realise, as the guy shows me his Guardian app on the latest Android phone as some kind of justification for his own embarrassment that I’ve encountered a beautiful metaphor for affluent modern life.

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I know many people who insist they still buy reprehensible right wing scumbag newspapers from force of habit. They’ve gotten used to this being their daily purchase, for whatever reason: maybe their parents bought it, or they are addicted to a part of the paper that is nothing to do with news output. The fact remains, these habits keep papers like the Sun and the Mail in business. If people stopped assuaging their need to feel safe in familiarity, a lot of these ‘institutions’ could vanish overnight. Except that’s too hard.

Then there’s the wine recommendation, another way to soften the blow of bad news and coping with life. The fact he took this on spec and bought three bottles before breakfast says a lot of the persuasive selling abilities of the woman the night before. One assumes if he hates it they’ll gift two bottles instead of one, but this kind of impulse consumerism is what got the oceans in the fucking state they are now. The fact remains, social networks like this (and I’ll include Twitter and Facebook in the condemnation) are the means by which too many people define their lives, based on what other people say and think and not on their own choice.

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Yesterday I encountered this attitude in spades, and the even more galling belief by many that you shouldn’t complain when companies make money off their own success, regardless of whether it hurts anyone in the process. I’m not going on about the Patreon bombsite any more: it is apparent from the publicly available news regarding their efforts to raise venture capital that nobody cares about little people any more. All that matters is those users prepared to make money that in turn makes the company look successful. With no consultation over change and Patrons being told they need to push people to pay them more money to cover the charges… I get it.

What this means for me is that it is time to give people alternate means by which they can fund me. It is the opportunity I required to ensure stuff doesn’t become habit, and that I am thinking independently, based on what matters most to me. I know I shouldn’t start my day making snap judgements of random strangers, but when that stranger feels the need to apologise to someone that they don’t know over the suspect nature of their life choices? Who’s the one with the issue here, exactly.

Changing long term destructive habits is not hard. Have the balls to start today.