Monday, December 29, 2014

And the gun that’s hanging on the kitchen wall, dear

New England Christmas -- fourteen pounds!
On the beach, during my childhood in Thailand, we celebrated Christmas.  We went and ate shish kabobs and sunned ourselves.  We played ping-pong with other missionary kids from other Christian schools scattered around southeast Asia.  I read Agatha Christie novels and built sand castles.

We did not feel guilty.  Yet it was other people’s sacrifice funding our tropical vacation.  At some point during my childhood, maybe when someone else pointed it out, I realized that all of our income came at the mercy of strangers.  We went “home” to the States, on furlough, to raise money from churches.  These churches, and their elderly members, or families much like ours, working-class families, or wealthy families, or friends—all of them “supported” us.  They gave us money because they believed in what we were doing, evangelizing Buddhist Thailand, and their hard-earned savings funded our barbecue crab dinners and beachfront bungalow.

It sounds sordid, maybe—but only if you don’t believe in what we were doing.  And we did believe.  We believed with all our hearts.  My parents continue the same work, now living in Islamic Indonesia, where people keep framed photographs of Osama bin Laden enshrined on their walls.  There they run a Bible school, in a country which has a regular history of mass slaughter of its Christian minority.

Now I’m doing the same thing.  Asking for “support” from people who believe in what I’m doing, merely to fund my life, merely to fund what I believe in.  And I’m getting it.  I am absolutely blown away that today, with 6 days left of my Kickstarter campaign, I am at 68 percent support.  It feels great, and it also feels terrifying.  Because if people believe in me, then that means I actually have to do the work.  Do my work.

Books about creativity frequently talk about fear, not just fear of failure, but fear of success.  Because being successful means inviting people in, to see the work.  Being successful means that the bar is raised.  Being successful invites rejection and critique.  It means accountability.

Accountability, or the lack of it, is the hardest part of being an artist alone in the world.  I’ve never missed a day of scheduled work—and by that I mean any one of many menial office jobs, or bar-tending, or waitressing, or my numerous other minimum-wage jobs—any job where I had to clock in and report to a boss and had FICA taken out of a paycheck.  Maybe I occasionally showed up late, I took personal days—but I met my obligations.  I called in.  I knew I had to be there so I was there.  But working for myself is a different story entirely.  Why is it so much harder to meet an obligation to myself?

Also, I feel guilt.  If other people are funding my life by their sacrifice, what right do I have to sit in front of the television?  To take days off?  To eat shish kabobs or play ping-pong?  I do not share my parents’ certainty of belief.

Instead, I find myself returning an old prayer, again and again:  Lord, I believe.  Help Thou my unbelief.

After having prayed I believe for a little while longer.  This whole experiment, discovering a community of friends, friends of friends, family, blessed strangers—maybe can make me believe in myself.  One friend, an old friend, my first donor, wrote a beautiful email that said:  the patrons of your art demand such boldness.  And they do.  You do.

[Give here:]

1 comment:

kari said...

This is the first I've heard of it, went to your page to donate and see it's funded! Hooray!