16 October 2018
Some time ago a combination of medical bills, veterinary bills, delayed payments from my publisher, and financial mismanagement landed me in a horrible position. I woke up in the morning terrified about not being able to afford food (or, worse, tobacco), and spent most of the day trying to put it out of my head, with as much success as you’d guess. I was over a year behind on rent, which would have been worse if I didn’t have the World’s Most Understanding Landlord, but it weighed on me all the same.
Eventually, Jennifer Slaugh wore me down and convinced me to start a Patreon—just the kind of thing that is naturally difficult for a Minnesotan.
The response was humbling; it seemed there were a lot of people who wanted to help me. And help me they did. In a fairly short time, there was enough pledged to make a huge difference in my life. The day I pulled in that money, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I mean, seriously–that day, I sat down and words started tumbling out of my fingertips. I was no longer terrified. I could sit there, relax, groove, and just do what I wanted, which was write, which was tell stories. My gratitude to those who have supported me is too great to express, and I can only hope that the work I do going forward will please them enough for their sacrifice to feel justified.
I am telling you this now for a particular reason. I was talking to Will Shetterly, relating the story to him in reference to the Patreon that he’s started, and he pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me: For many of us—I would even think most of us, perhaps nearly all of us–we do not work better because we are terrified about not having enough; on the contrary, many of us work better when we don’t have to fear for our basic necessities, when money is not an issue, or at least not a pressing one. This is certainly true when our work is not “toil,” that is, the sort of mind-numbing body-killing, soul-destroying labor that provides a paycheck but little or no satisfaction—the kind of work that in a rational society would either be done by machine or not done at all. For those of us fortunate enough to make a living doing something that gives us satisfaction, it’s different. I have been much, much more productive since the fear of being broke has been removed.
I am not saying this to ask you to support my Patreon. On the contrary, right now, I have what I need to keep going, and not be scared, and that’s all I can ask for. If you’re going to support someone, consider supporting Will, because I, like all right-thinking people, want to see more of his fiction. I’m saying that those who think people (and they always seem to mean “other people”) have be kept in a state of financial terror or they won’t do anything are, not to put too fine a point on it, full of crap.