You Should Pay Creators


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The Internet, like many of man’s greatest inventions, is a force for both good and bad, but one of its most significant impacts on our culture is that it makes most media content available for free (or for a ridiculously low rate). It means that people are increasingly unwilling to pay for things like games, or magazine subscriptions, or apps. We still want them! But we don’t want to pay for them. This means that the people who work hard to make those media products are making less and less money on them. People are so accustomed to creators giving their work away for free that a lot of times they get irritated at the implication that they would have to pay to access a media product that a creator spent time and money creating. Even if paying for it costs less than a smoothie. And look, I am not a wealthy woman. I understand that we can’t all drop a ton of money every month on endless subscriptions and app purchases and new books etc. etc. etc. I certainly can't afford to do that. But I am suggesting that if you are compelled to consume content, that you take a moment to think about what went into creating it.

How long do you estimate it took a creator to develop your favorite iphone game? How many people do you think worked on writing, editing, designing, and publicizing the last book you read? How much value did it add to your life? Should creators be compensated for giving you that value? Maybe you don’t have the ability to pay for everything you consume, but you could put $5 towards someone’s patreon or their ko-fi account, or you could promote their work on social media. Maybe you could spend a few bucks to get the full price version of an app or a game from an independent creator. Books and art and games take work and money to make, and if you want them to keep existing, if you want to keep their owners from burning out and struggling to make ends meet, it’s worth taking a few dollars to support them monetarily (if you have the ability to do so). Maybe next time you see a piece of art that you really like, take the time to find the artist, and support them monetarily. (I guarantee the vast majority of artists have figured out a way for you to give them money if you take the time to look.) It helps them make more work, it makes them feel that their work is valued by others, and it makes you feel excellent about yourself. Win win win.

And if you’re looking for good things to throw your money at, may I recommend:

  • Florence, an iPhone game about falling in love for the first time that made my heart feel too big for my chest
  • Griefbacon, a newsletter about “crying in public and other stuff like that” from one of my favorite writers, Helena Fitzgerald. It will probably make you cry, but in a good way.
  • The Shatner Chatner, a newsletter from Daniel Ortberg that makes me snort laugh on the regular. Snort laughing is excellent for your health, or so I like to imagine. I recommend it (both snort laughing and the newsletter). 

Now go live your lives and throw your spare money (only if you have it, I must emphasize) in the direction of the creatives who make things you love.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Entertainment Burnout


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Just the other night, my boyfriend and I were sitting in bed trying to decide what to watch. We landed at last, reluctantly, on season two of “Westworld,” a show we adored when we voraciously watched the first season last year. “I suppose we’d better finally start on the new season of this critically acclaimed show we really like and will probably enjoy,” my boyfriend said with gently sarcastic reluctance. Just in case you didn’t know: season two of “Westworld” started quite a while ago. We could have watched it at any point in the last few weeks. We knew we would eventually, and we knew we would probably like it when we did. Why did it take us so long? Partially, I think, because even though we knew we liked the show and would enjoy it, it sort of felt like something we had to do, like semi-mandatory cultural homework. Sort of like that sketch from “Portlandia,” where two hipsters get in a loud passive aggressive power struggle over who is more caught up on the “must-reads” and end up getting hit by cars because they ran across the street without reading the “don’t walk” sign. Obviously it is a silly sketch on a silly show about silly people, but like – I for sure feel sometimes like I have to keep up with All The Things! And it just gets exhausting.

At a certain point, the weight of unwatched/unread/unlistened-to’s just pile up in a way that feels distinctly like homework to me. I know many of you are very enthusiastic about “The Americans” and “Billions” and “99% Invisible” (and and and). I am sure they are all excellent and that I would adore them if I just gave them a chance but I am not going to! I wish I wanted to, but I really honestly would rather rewatch “The Great British Baking Show” for the ninth time, or read my beat up old copy of Harry Potter for the 50th time or just lay in my bed in total silence. Any of those sound better than doing TV homework in anticipation of a future conversation about all of the things I am supposed to be watching in order to appease the Zeitgeist Gods. So please, do not send me any of your recommendations. I simply do not need any more entertainment. I am good.

More and more lately I find myself looking for silence. All the spare time in my day that I used to spend cooking or showering or waiting in line at the grocery store check-out line have gotten filled in with podcasts and tweets and iPhone games demanding my attention. I never need to be bored anymore. I never need to let my mind wander. I never need to have any spare moments in my day when I’m just doing nothing. I miss doing nothing. I miss the things I think of when I don’t have something else to amuse me, and I miss the peacefulness of laying in the sun on a summer day with my eyes closed listening to the world, which is frankly better for both my mental health and my already poor eyesight than looking at a dim iPhone screen. So if you ask me to consume some sort of entertainment this summer, it had better be truly better than doing nothing.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Success Doesn't Have a Time Limit


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I watched a video recently about the burden of expectations and the pressure there is to reach success at a certain age, whether that’s like, a lucrative career or having kids or getting married or reaching artistic milestones. I know I am only twenty-five, but I have constant anxiety about being successful enough for my age. I am now almost exactly four years out of college, and the years are starting to feel weighty with expectation. And I am absolutely positive that in like, five years, my twenty five year old qualms about not being impressive enough to other people will seem absurd to me but right now it just seems like SO MUCH. And I think part of it is, I don’t even know what would satisfy me. Because I have done impressive things, I have been successful at things, but it doesn’t feel like enough. And I don’t know what would be enough.

Lately I keep seeing people online talking about how the pressure to achieve outrageous success at a young age is just another way of wringing labor out of people at younger ages, like, just a constant pressure to work harder and do more, and produce more. I think for a lot of people, thirty feels like a really hard dividing line where you have to have things worked out, and I’m officially closer to thirty than twenty, so I’m beginning to feel a little antsy about it. But I think that is the wrong way to think about yourself and your potential. It’s perfectly valid and just as useful to work at yourself in less flashy ways and know that you won’t look outwardly successful until you’re older. Like, yes, I do not have a book deal at twenty five (and honestly, looking at that on paper, what a ridiculous benchmark to set for myself), but I’m way clearer about my goals and my aspirations that I was four years ago, and I’ve done a lot of therapy, and I’ve worked on my craft in quiet ways that have helped me improve in ways that I can’t particularly brag about at family dinners, but are valuable and useful to me nonetheless. And honestly, what am I even trying to prove by being younger and more successful than everyone else? I don’t know that I would be happier or less anxious or more confident if I had achieved some arbitrary marker of success. Because there’s always someone doing a little better than you, you know? If you’re doing really well in your career, someone else probably has a better relationship than you, or if you have a great relationship, someone else is probably doing better at work! You're not going to be the best at everything all at one time. And there’s time to do so much! Life is longer than twenty five years, or even thirty years. We have so much time to do so many different things and have so many experiences!!! It is not the SAT; no one is going to take our papers away after a certain amount of time. (I mean, except that death is coming for us all one day, but that’s a DIFFERENT BLOG POST, and a DIFFERENT THERAPY SESSION.)

The point is that you don’t have a countdown clock marking the time you have left before you have to meet a certain milestone. You can take as long as you want. You can skip achievements entirely. You are in an OPEN WORLD GAME, EXPLORE WHATEVER YOU WANT, WHENEVER YOU WANT. You’re not less valuable or capable than anyone else because you’re taking a little bit longer. Maybe those other more successful people have cheat codes, maybe they are staying up too late unlocking achievements and ruining their sleep schedules, I don’t know! It doesn’t matter. Either way, you have time. And whenever you have your big breakthrough or big win, I will be there on Instagram to post a thousand confetti emojis at you. You’re doing great, we’re all doing great.

I leave you with this Rilke quote, because I’m a pretentious nerd and I didn’t minor in English for nothing: “You have not grown old, and it is not too late/ To dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out its own secret.” Rilke’s very wise, so you know that’s gotta be true.

Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

You Should Half Ass Things Sometimes


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Ron Swanson once said “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” This is excellent advice if, unlike me, you have the ability to focus on only one thing without side-eyeing the eight other projects you have waiting in the wings, demanding your attention. So here is a caveat for my fellow easily-bored-workaholics: sometimes you should half ass projects for their own good. Here is an example: I have been working on writing a play for the last couple of years with the hope that I would fully produce it at some point. Except that’s a big project! I’ve got a busy life and the idea of committing myself to fully producing a play is overwhelming, so it’s just gone on the backburner for a long time. I haven’t even finished writing it because the idea of finding time to produce it was giving me so much anxiety. And it was only last night that it occurred to me: you can do small versions of projects. Did you know that you can do just a reading of a play and not perform it as a fully produced thing right out of the gate and that’s fine? Because then at least it exists in the world in some form. You can hang onto the prospect of one day completing your project only in its most ideal and perfect form, OR you can decide that an imperfect piece of art that gets shown to the world is better than an idea about a piece of art that sits in limbo until the perfect time comes. Because the perfect time just isn’t going to come. There has never been a single time in my whole life when I had only one thing going on, or when I’ve had the ability or inclination to work on one project exclusively. There are day jobs and side hustles and other projects I also want to work on! And while my pride tells me I should be able to realize all my projects in their most ideal and unblemished form, I would rather get the projects finished imperfectly. I’d rather they get completed and put out there. Because then at least they exist in reality, and not just as hypotheticals known only to me.

I think Ron is speaking to Leslie’s pride, her insistence that she can be perfect, she can do everything. And she can’t! You can’t. You cannot do everything completely perfectly. But I don’t think you really need to do a perfect job at something to make the effort worthwhile. What Ron and I are both saying is: respect your limits and your priorities, and do the things you actually want to do, not the things you feel you need to do to preserve your pride. Real is better than perfect.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

It's Okay If You're Not Okay


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Lately I have been reminding myself of a piece of wisdom I learned from my therapist many moons ago: it’s okay not to be okay. If you’re feeling sad or anxious or unproductive or just flat, that’s okay. You don't need to justify it or have great reasons or be able to explain it. Go ahead and just feel that way. To be clear: I’m not saying that feeling badly is just something you have to deal with or that you should get over it or ignore it or power through it. What I’m saying is that you're allowed to feel poorly no matter your circumstances. It's not your fault that you feel that way. You don’t need to feel bad about it. Maybe things are really crappy right now and you’re upset about that. Or maybe things are really great right now and everything is going fine, and yet you’re still feeling terrible, and that’s really confusing. You might feel like you have a lot to be grateful for, and loads of people who love you and support you, but you still feel like your head is full of cat hair and wadded up papers and loose Cheeto dust. That happens to me frequently, and it makes me feel weird and guilty and like I have a broken brain. How dare my brain not acknowledge that I'm thriving? And how can I explain feeling gross while good things are happening for me without coming off as ungrateful? But my therapist told me this with a lot of conviction, so I'm going to tell it to you just as earnestly: whatever's going on in your head and your heart, you are entitled to feel it.

I was listening to an episode of the "Dear Prudence" podcast recently with Jaclyn Friedman as the guest host, and Jaclyn said something about how you can’t always control your feelings, but frequently you can control the feelings you have about your feelings. So if you’re feeling upset, that is what it is and it's not fun, but you don’t need to feel guilty or mad at yourself for feeling upset. That's just a whole other unnecessary feeling to deal with, and you don't need it. You are allowed to just simply be upset and not waste extra headspace on judging yourself for being upset. You don’t need to police or punish yourself. You can spend that energy on different, more important things, like wrapping yourself in soft blankets, or looking up pictures of puppies on the Internet, or talking to someone who makes you smile, or watching "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

I personally am feeling a little bit poorly right now! I have reasons, but they don't feel like very good reasons. And you know what, that’s fine! I will feel the way I feel for the reasons that I have, and I am going to try really hard not to judge myself for them. Experience tells me that eventually my feelings will probably change or go away so I'm going to be gentle with myself until things calm down in my heart. I hope that you will treat yourself with generosity too.