A time for being a pain in the ass

OK, I don’t often talk about questionable business practices here at Welcome to Bridgetown, but a hell of a lot of webcomic artists and writers I follow are *NOT* happy with Patreon right now, and neither am I.

In short: They’ve rearranged their payment fee policy so that instead of taking a percentage cut out of the creators’ payout [I should add that the creators are OK with that part. Think of it as the publisher taking their usual cut from your just-released book.], they are now taking it out of the donors’ payment.

And I quote, from their recent email to creators and donors:
“Starting December 18th, we will apply a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 that patrons will pay for each individual pledge. This service fee helps keep Patreon up and running.”

This is under the guise that it’ll standardize payouts for the creator. Which is NOT a thing any creator actually asked for.  They state they ran a poll recently about it, but to my knowledge, I have not heard of any creator actually taking part in it.

So.

This means that for those of you barely scraping by but still wanting to give money to your favorite artist or writer, Your $1 donation per month is now $1.37 per month.

Per donation.

As you can imagine, this adds up. Already we’re seeing $1 donors saying “fuck this” and deleting their payments. We’re already seeing artists and writers think about moving to new donation sites. [Kickstarter currently has one in beta, I believe called Drip, that may start next year that many may be flocking to.]

So what’s my part in this?

Well. I’m okay funds-wise so I’m willing to have the payments go up slightly. The artists and writers I donate to are worth it. So I’m not going to say ‘boycott’ because that won’t work.

No, I want y’all to do something else.

I want you all to be the biggest pains in the ass and email Patreon, @ them on Twitter and on FB, whatever, and make a lot of noise to have them turn this Really Bad Idea around and come up with something else.

Look, I get that Patreon needs to make money too. But this ain’t the way to go about it.

*

And for the record, here’s the email that creators and donors received recently,l, minus the ‘we’re a nifty company’ spiel at the end.

“Dear patron,

Your support is truly changing the lives of creators around the world. You give creators a reliable paycheck that enables them to do their best work. Thank you thank you thank you.

In order to continue our mission of funding the creative class, we’re always looking for ways to do what’s best for our creators. With that, we’re writing to tell you of a change we’re making so that all Patreon creators take home exactly 95% of every pledge, with no additional fees.

Aside from Patreon’s existing 5% fee, a creator’s income on Patreon varies because of processing fees every month. They can lose anywhere from 7-15% of their earnings to these fees. This means creators actually take home a lower percentage of your pledge than you may realize. Our goal is to make creators’ paychecks as predictable as possible, so we’re restructuring how these fees are paid.

Starting December 18th, we will apply a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 that patrons will pay for each individual pledge. This service fee helps keep Patreon up and running.”

Fly-By: Taking the Week Off

polar bear cafe penguin

Hey all!  I’m not exactly up-to-my-neck busy and (I hope) the Day Job won’t be too stressful the next few days, but I thought I’d take a week off from blogging just to get my ducks in a row, Christmas presents ordered, novels written, errands done, book covers created, etc.   I’m also in the midst of switching priority levels on my writing projects and want a clear head for that.  You know how it is.

See you next Monday!

Post-Thanksgiving Haze

Luffy eating
This may have been me yesterday.

D’OH!  I seem to have completely forgotten to write and schedule a post for today.  It’s been such a weird week that it completely slipped my mind.  And being that it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet day here at the Day Job, hopefully I can take care of other things that slipped my mind and/or didn’t have time for.

Such as making some headway on the Apartment Complex story outline.  I finished the initial revision run-through for Meet the Lidwells just the other day, and I’m letting it simmer for a few days before I go through it one more time…so this is the perfect time to kickstart that next project.  [I do need to futz with the MtL cover some more, but I think I’ll do that on the weekend when I have more time and space to breathe.  I know what I want, I’m just having a hell of a time trying not to make it look like it’s a craptacular botch job finished in five minutes on Photoshop.]

I’m hoping things quiet down on the Day Job from here on in so I can a) relax a bit, and b) sneak in some writing work if needed.  Things usually do start winding down post-Thanksgiving (with one last short burst in late December), so this is when I get to unwind and not have to stress out about all that much.  And I am so looking forward to that!

Writing During Q4

anime yawning
I feel your pain, kid.

It’s that time of year again, I see.  When the Day Job teeters between being completely dead and boring to being so insanely busy I lose all track of time.  While I’m thankful that I’m no longer working in retail (or in a warehouse, or on a phone branch) during Q4, the bipolar quality of the job still tends to drive me crazy sometimes.  I never quite know whether it’s going to be one or the other until the day comes.

With my current Day Job, I’ve firmly stood by my rule: I do not think about the Day Job once I clock out for the day.  What if I still have outstanding work to do?  Don’t care.  What if I — DO. NOT. CARE.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about the job.  It’s got everything to do with maintaining sanity and energy for things other than Day Jobbery.

It’s the only way I can deal with the sheer volume when and if it comes.  I work in first-in-first-out fashion on cases that come my way — even and especially if they’re labelled as OMG requests.  These are most often the ones dumped on us at last minute, usually because the requester has forgotten to forward it to us two months ago.  The only ones I’ll drop everything for are critical escalations (and even then I tend to be a bit cynical when they’re labeled such, because sometimes they’re really not).

All this is so I still have that reserve of energy at the end of the day to work on my writing.  You know how I get when I miss a day due to circumstances beyond my control…I get irritable and cranky.  So even if my beloved writing time is spent working on minutiae or revision or low-level preparation for an upcoming project, I’ll at least have gotten that much further.

With this particular Day Job, I have a very vague idea of when it gets superbusy:  mid-month (a few clients send big monthly files then), close to month-end (clients trying to make their metrics), and end-of-quarter (tax season).  And I know that once the last few weeks of December roll around, it’s mostly about wrapping things up, finishing off outstanding queries, and taking it easy for a bit until mid-January.

That’s the trick, at least for me: having at least a vague idea of what to expect on the Day Job over the course of the month, so I can plan accordingly.  [Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll spend the first of those quiet, dead days by goofing off.  I figure I’ve earned a bit of a respite, though!]  It’s the only way I can keep up with my writing schedule without tiring myself out to the point of exhaustion or illness.

It’s not ideal, but hey, it’s a paycheck, and I’m willing to work around it.

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes

Vienna Opera Backstage, Austria
Vienna Opera House pic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Every now and again I think of how fans see their favorite writers or musicians or performers when they’re not center stage with a new project.  I get to thinking, this band has finished their tour, they’ve already released all the singles from their latest album, and they’re out of the limelight.  So what are they doing at that point?

Well, the 80s told us that all the bands were hanging out on the Sunset Strip and getting completely shitfaced and taking an apothecary full of drugs and partying until it was time to start the whole album-tour rollercoaster again.  Or something other ridiculous, overblown stereotype of some sort.

The era of social media shows it differently.  Nowadays, we find that artists are working at their day job or completing freelance projects and selling their own wares at conventions.  Musicians are bringing up a family or helping out a friend at a recording session.  Writers are slogging away, trying to make deadlines and heading out on book tours and conventions.  Any one of them might be taking a breather so they can just be regular non-famous people.

I think about something Paul McCartney once said about the length of time it took for the Beatles to record Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: “Because we were done touring, people in the media were starting to sense that there was too much of a lull, which created a vacuum, so they could bitch about us now. They’d say, ‘Oh, they’ve dried up.'”

I sometimes also think about the time it takes from a writer saying ‘I’m working on a new project’, maybe giving out vague details about it, to the time they tweet ‘YAY!  It’s done!  Off to my agent/editor!’, to the time they announce that it’s being released.  Back in the internet age you were never sure how long it took, especially when some writers like Stephen King could have multiple books and stories out within the span of a year, while other writers might not see publication until a decade after their last release.  Nowadays you can follow your favorite author In Real Time.

I think this might be one of the reasons why some writers are always pleasantly surprised when their book gets a positive response.  They’ve lived with that book for anywhere from six months to a few years, and it’s all their own creation.  They wrote the score, they built the sets, they sang the arias endlessly to get them just right.  Perhaps maybe a few lucky backstage friends got to beta read.  They or their production crew (their agent and/or publisher) may have even done the artwork for the program.  They put it in the hands of their agent, in hopes that someone will be interested.  For all intents and purposes, it’s a one-person show almost all the way to the end.  And when they get there, they’re so immersed in their story that they’re really not entirely sure how the public will react.

It’s one of the most interesting paradoxes in the creative arts; you create something for the public to enjoy, and yet you’re never completely certain if you’ve done it right until they see it.  But if you’re lucky, you have, and all that work will have been worth it.

Despite the distractions

naruto determined
I know just how you feel, Naruto.

The Day Job has been kicking my ass these last few weeks.  The fallout from a new system roll-out that suffered a few growing pains, a ridiculously large workload, and everything in between.  On the one hand, it all makes the day go by ridiculously quickly, but on the other hand, it leaves me hardly any breathing room.  Last week’s vacation was a short respite from that, but alas, I’m still getting my butt handed to me at the end of the day.

Over the last few days I’ve been tempted to lighten the load: stop drawing my Inktober entries, take a hiatus from the blogs and the daily 750 Words, and focus only on finishing Meet the Lidwells.  Or maybe even take a break from that as well.

And then it occurred to me:  That’s how they win.

The last thing I ever want to do is give up my creativity for frustrating reasons.  Yes, I know, this is my Day Job, the one that brings in the money.  But really — do I want to put my lifelong career goals aside because of it?  Hell to the fucking NO.  It aggravates the hell out of me when that happens.

Even if it’s something insignificant like the blogs or the daily words or the Inktober drawings?  Yes, even those.  It’s part of who I am and what I want to do with my life.  They’re the practice that makes me better at what I do, and I can’t give that up.  I won’t give that up.

I was greatly tempted to put up a ‘fly-by’ post a few times over the last few days and say ‘I’ll be back when things quiet down’, but the more I thought about it, the more it made me angry.  I did not want to do that.  It felt like I’d be slacking off, or worse, not taking my writing career seriously.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s hard as hell to balance my Day Job life with my writing life.  I get that.  A hell of a lot of creative people have to contend with that.  We all take time off to recharge, or to regain sanity, or finish a Day Job project, or whatever.  I’ve done it myself plenty of times.  [Hell, I did nothing during my vacation last week except take pictures and do the Inktober entries.]  But I don’t really think I’ve hit that point just yet.

I don’t want to call it.  Not just yet.

Is There Any Escape from Noise?

Lately my sinuses have been slightly congested (partly due to the heat and the pollen from that heatwave we had a short while ago, which was followed up by a few rain storms and ridiculous humidity), and my right ear has been blocked up a little bit.  I’m not sure if it’s due to that, or if there’s wax build-up, or if I have tinnitus.  I can still hear, just the some of the treble fine-tuning seems to be muffled ever so slightly, and there is a ringing.  I’m going to keep an eye (ear?) on it and if it doesn’t get better (or indeed gets worse), then I’ll head to the doctor’s.

In the meantime, I’ve been contemplating another stretch of internet detox.  At present I’m only half-heartedly popping into social media, but I’m thinking of maybe doing another temporary unplugging.  It feels like I’m starting to have trouble filtering out all the white noise* again, so it’s time to step away for a little bit.

As you’ve probably guessed, I tend to go through this phase maybe once or twice a year.  It’s usually brought on when I’m getting frustrated with my lack of significant writing progress.  It’s also brought on when opening Twitter starts to feel more like an addictive drug hit than a social connection.  And that’s never a good thing.

SO.  Starting this week I’ve backed away from social media for a little while, and will return most likely mid-October.  I’ve got a few busy weeks ahead of me (both Day Job and vacation back to MA) so I think it’s probably for the best that I get my head quieted down and focus on what needs focusing on.

This won’t bother the Daily Words or the blogs at all…those I’ll still work on.  We shall see what happens upon return.

 

* – This is not meant to have any racial or political connotations; it’s truly white noise I’m talking about. That is, the jumble of all the voices out there, talking about anything and everything.

On Writing: ‘Crunch’

naruto paperwork

Hoo boy.

This article about ‘worshiping crunch’ popped up on Twitter on Wednesday and it’s making the rounds of many of the webcomic and freelance artists I follow.  The reaction to the article is overwhelmingly, this is not only horseshit, it’s unhealthy.

The tl;dr to save you from the flashy prose of the article:  Some creative people thrive on working eighty hours a day plus overtime, working on things due in four minutes, eating microwave ramen and Cheetos and drinking up all those 5-hour boost drinks in one go.  Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but it’s not that far from the truth.  The article is an excerpt from the writer’s upcoming book about the cut-throat video game industry.

[EDIT: The writer has since come out stating that his excerpt has very much been taken out of context; he himself disdains the ‘crunch’ idea, which was lost in translation from the book to the online magazine.]

It really did get me thinking about my own work life, nonetheless.

I get it; some people thrive on the high-speed, high-maintenance atmosphere of certain industries, where most of your waking life (and probably most of your sleeping part of it as well) is spent ‘crunching’, getting a week or a month’s worth of regular-speed work into a short amount of time.

The last time I did the ‘crunch’ thing was at Yankee Candle, over ten years ago.  Five years’ worth of working ‘mandatory overtime’ hours in the shipping department during fourth quarter.  Q4 is of course holiday sales season, so our candle output shot up exponentially during that season.  In 2002 it also included a few outside vendors who would buy in bulk.  [Our team won the MVP award that year for Bravery In the Face of Insurmountable Odds and Success Despite Incredibly Unrealistic Sales Goals.]

Mind you, my hours were already pretty early: 6am to 2pm, five days a week.  When it came to Q4, however, that ended up changing to 4am to 3pm, six days a week, Monday through Saturday.  I didn’t complain, because a) I was getting pretty good pay, and the OT pay gave me a good padding in the bank for my bills, b) I got along with pretty much everyone in my department, so it wasn’t a completely hellish atmosphere, and c) I could still dedicate the early evening hours to my writing the trilogy.

Yes, even after ten hour days on the floor, I still went ahead and hit my 1000-word goal almost every night.

The downsides were plentiful as well.  I was getting up at 2am and driving thirty miles through midwestern Massachusetts before any of the snow plows or sanding trucks were even out of the DPW barns.  I had a half-pack a day smoking habit.  I drank a huge cup of coffee (extra cream and sugar) in the morning and multiple giant bottles of Mountain Dew at work (and usually a can or two during my writing sessions), and ate a lot of really unhealthy convenience store food and snacks.  I was lifting 30-40 pound boxes and lugging heavy pallets all day long.

Suffice it to say, every damn year I’d miss about a week’s worth of work close to Christmas, because I’d either get something like the flu brought on by exhaustion, or I’d tweak my sciatic nerve, or both.  I always felt like shit at the end of the year.

By the end of 2004, I’d pretty much had enough.  I was seeing A and driving down to New Jersey on a regular basis.  I bailed in the spring of 2005 and moved down with her a week later.

*

Anyway, about this ‘crunch’ thing.

I just can’t see myself dedicating that much of my life and health for an industry.  Especially when I’m already fiercely dedicated to my writing career.  Every job I’ve held since then, I’ve told managers that I’m fine with the forty hour workweek with the occasional OT if it’s absolutely necessary.  But I have endeavors outside of work.  I’m quite protective of my writing time, not to mention I do my best to come up for air and be social with friends and family.  Thankfully, all my employers have accepted that without question.

Hell, I don’t even try to crunch a ridiculous amount of writing work into a single day.  Sure, I give myself a busy creative schedule on purpose, but it’s a schedule I can handle and can adjust if and when necessary.  It’s a daily schedule I enjoy and look forward to.  I give myself reasonable writing deadlines.  I might complain that I spend too much time futzing around on Twitter, but really…in the long run, it’s not as if I’m trying to write ten thousand words a day consistently.  My count is more like five to seven hundred lately, and that’s just on the Lidwells project.  Add these blogs and the 750 and it’s more like two thousand or so.  And at the end of the day I’m happy with that, and not absolutely knackered afterwards.

I just can’t see myself risking health and sanity for it.  Life is too short for that.

Coming back to the grind and other notes

your name comet taki
One of many spectacular shots from your name.

It’s Sunday mid-morning as I write this and both A. and I have been up for a few hours now.  I think we’ve both somewhat adjusted to Pacific Time again, having spent the last few days in a jet lag haze.  We’re both going over our work inboxes to clean them up at the moment, and I’m streaming some new music releases over the last few days.  [Best find so far: Moscow-based Life on Venus with their album Encounters, which I would describe as Slowdive if they had MBV’s volume.  So yeah, right in my wheelhouse there.]

Our two-week vacation in London was quite enjoyable if a little exhausting — thanks to my phone’s pedometer app, I figured out we walked just a little over eighty miles.  Lots of places seen, friends seen, cats petted, and lagers or tea ordered.  And somehow within all of that, I was also able to work a little on some of the index card notes for Secret Next Project!

And if you’re wondering why I chose the above gif from the anime your name., it’s because I watched it on the plane twice (once each way).  It’s become one of my favorite movies on many levels.  This makes three times I’ve watched it — so far — and I’m sure it’ll be one that will get even more views in the future.  And yes, I’ve already decided I’ll be writing a blog post about it here soon enough, as I find it an excellent example of detailed, layered storytelling and how to successfully unfold each subplot and hint of characterization so it all fits together perfectly.

Speaking of writing, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things as soon as possible.  I’m still feeling exhausted, but only physically, so I think I should be able to get back on the horse with little issue.  I’m particularly excited that I’m about to start the last act of Meet the Lidwells (and working on the cover!), which means I can start up the revision quite soon!  I’m also hoping to get started on further work with Secret Next Project as well.

As for non-writing creative stuff, I finally got the drawing models that I ordered online a short time ago (half off, so basically two-for-one!) that are made by Bandai.  They’re small but they’re detailed and pretty versatile, so I think I’ll be able to use these for future drawings.  Check ’em out:

Taki Mitsuha
I’ve named them Taki and Mitsuha, of course.

They come with some nifty accessories like different gesturing hands, katanas and handguns (because why the hell not), cell phones and tablets, and so on.  The directions are entirely in Japanese of course, but they’re super easy to use anyway.  I’m sure I’ll get more work out of these than out of Wilhelmina, the simple articulated model I got from Ikea for like six dollars. 🙂

So yes…we’re back from vacation, autumn is nearly among us, and I’m eager to get back to Doing All the Creative Things.  Hell, I may even record a few more Drunken Owl demos if time permits!

Now, if I can just shake the remnants of this jet lag…

 

Frustrated

dr tennant annoyed

Feeling frustrated by my less than stellar output lately.  It’s the same damn thing, too…distraction and procrastination.  A tiny bit of it is a not-high-but-consistent volume of work for the Day Job, which I can deal with.  What’s annoying me is that I’ll have few spare moments to breathe and realign myself, and waste those moments my fucking around online.

Even more frustrating is that I’m even doing that off the Day Job clock.  Time for my nightly writing session!  Woohoo!  Let’s go check Twitter first.

NO.  NO NO NO NO.  STOP THAT, DAMMIT.

I swear, if this keeps up I’m going to have to enforce another internet hiatus.  Mind you, I’ll sort of be having one in a few weeks anyway, while we’re on vacation.  It’ll be mostly fly-by blog entries and Instagram posts.  Writing will most likely be a bit of longhand work on the Secret New Project, as I don’t plan on bringing a laptop.  Hopefully I’ll get all this frustration out of my system and start anew upon return.

So!  Let’s just get this all behind us and soldier on, shall we?