I won't know properly until I get the Patreon check, because their system won't let me see people's caps. But I would estimate that my work writing poetry earned me:
- $1,200 for 60 hours of pure writing
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 false mustache
- 6 strong drinks
- A Starbucks gift card
- 1 Square credit card reader with fee waved
- 1 nugget of marijuana
- 25 hugs from strangers
Oh man oh man o man.
I've learned a lot about what makes an event successful, how to make a rapid and successful sales pitch, how to engage in effective social media outreach and fundraising online, how to read people, and how to create instant connection and rapport. It's been a learning experience in carrying a project through from idea to successful execution.
And I keep refining. In this last weekend, I changed my sign to be shorter, more pointed, and contain an explicit statement: 'average donation $10'. This recommendation from an old friend suddenly saw me writing 2/3 the number of poems for 2-3 times what I was making before, all through the power of suggestion rather than strict pricing. I feel a little shady doing this. The average price, when you leave it up to people, seems to be about $5. But then, there are a few letter-writers and poets who explicitly write $5 poems and websites like Fiverr.com. Maybe these are swaying people to value this kind of work at $5, so my not-so-subtle manipulation of prices is perhaps not combatting a natural order but merely replacing expectations built by other institutions. And, when I say average is $10, folks don't want to be average and I wind up writing a lot of $12-$15 poems. I still feel a little guilty, but I think it's probably just a piece of properly valuing myself as an artist and proclaiming that my work has value.
There are a few plans in the work for next month - part of me wants to get the jump on Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, and write a novel. For fun, of course, and the challenge, rather than profit. The idea of having a public goal that my networks hold me accountable to is incredibly effective. I also want to learn more about publishing, because it seems like a thing, and is not something I know anything about.
I've also been talking with a few friends about creating an artist's collective/live-work space that would finance itself through events. And Bike Odyssey LA has a performance on the 19th that will mark my biggest and best artistic funding, from the National Endowment for the Arts itself, through the City of Long Beach. And I DO want to take RENT Poet, which has invitations (paid and unpaid) from various folks over the next two months, and see if I can get on the right event lists to make paid appearances at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Maybe it cheapens the 'grit' of the street poetry element, but if I could regularly pay my rent through poetry...well, then, I may be a dancing monkey, but I will also be a working artist.
One thing seems certain - art begets art. I'm convinced of the value of the project by the connections, the tangential hustles, the sheer time I've had this month to create and work on monetizing that creation.
A million thanks to all of you for your support with the project, it has meant the world. Weirdly, having a bunch of Facebook likes has translated in the best way into feeling like what I am doing is being seen and appreciated. I had a friend who I hadn't talked to in 5 years reach out and say she quit her job to be a writer and part of the courage came from seeing this project. I've re-connected with many more old friends, even old flames. It's been art as connection, as a little global village. And I like this village we live in.
A few media shares:
I'm ecstatic to have this video below - the complete process, from start to finish, ordering and writing a poem, from this great tattoed and handlebar mustachioed gentleman who stopped by at WeHo Reads. He was also the one who gave me the fake mustache! He came to watch his friend, poet Nicelle Davis (who appears in the second half of the video) and wound up commissioning a poem first.