1. Respect Our Time. Writers and artists work hard, but unless you’re a writer or artist yourself, this may be difficult, or even impossible, to see. Some writers or artists will tell you that a Higher Power or Great Creator works through them; others will tell you that it is all hard labour; still others will tell you it’s a little bit of both. For me, it’s a messy combination of hard work, self-discipline, and desire, with inspiration, anger, and caffeine. Only a very few, if anyone at all, has witnessed my writing process from scratch to completion. Without being a writer or artist yourself, you can’t understand the hours, moods, or frustrations that go into writing the smallest things, like a blog entry, to the bigger things, like a novel. Writers and artists are used to being interrupted with requests to do the laundry, cook dinner, tidy the apartment, talk about nothing, etc. Don’t do this! The slightest intrusion in our thought process, a hand on our shoulder when we didn’t know you were standing behind us, can distract us from the story we’re trying to tell and scare off our words like a swarm of chickadees being chased off by the neighbourhood cat. We don’t call you when you’re at work. We don’t come into your office or your storefront and remind you to take out the garbage and respond to your emails. So, respect our time; sometimes you just need to leave us alone!
2. Pay Us For Our Work. Most workers get paid for their labour; we frequently do not. We accept writing and art-making as our full-time/overtime job with little to no pay, no benefits, no vacations, no holidays. Many of us work psychically destructive jobs to pay the bills and we make time outside of those jobs for art; others of us, myself included, are on social assistance, and struggle to pay the rent and get some food; we’re lucky indeed when we’re able to buy books, zines, and other arts from our friends and community members, and we do it whenever we can. Money is complicated; we struggle to make our art available at a price that is both fair and worthwhile to us as creative creatures, and fair and accessible to you, our oft-broke friends, acquaintances, and lovers of words. Many writers and other artists whose works are online, including myself, have a donation button on our websites – if you’v got the cash and you’re feeling generous, donate! I like to think of it as online-busking; here I am, sharing my words, hoping for some spare change as you pass by. When you pay us for our words, we write more! When you pay us for our illustrations, we draw more! Spend your money with intention and care; make your art with intention and care. I have a mantra: Will Trade For $$$.
3. Introduce Us to Other Writers and Artists in Your Life. Writing and art-making can be unspeakably lonely! (And unspeakably lovely – I frequently typo the two.) Our communities of writers and artists are splintered and fragmented, not only because of geographical distances, but also because cliques and social power/capital (& lack thereof) exist, mental illnesses exist, shyness exists, and poverty exists; insomnia and fatigue and fear and illnesses exist, inaccessible spaces exist; these experiences and more affect the way we relate and interact with other writers and artists, within our own cities and without. We do indeed need to spend plenty of time alone, but we need to spend time with other writers and artists, too! We need to talk, plan, daydream, organize, collaborate, and encourage. So, set us up. Exchange names, emails, snail mail addresses, ideas. Bring us to events. Invite us into your homes. Tell your friends about us. Have a Quiet Party. Help us build and sustain our oft-disconnected communities.
4. Share, Stock, and Review Our Work. Many of us spend the greater portion of our days in quiet, lonely corners, working away without any kind of immediate feedback or encouragement. It can feel like we’re writing and art-making within a vacuum. It can feel like nobody cares. And for those of us who are self-publishing or working with extremely DIY endeavours, we need lots of support; not just kind words and respect, but tangible support. Not only do we need you to pay for our work, we need you to share it as well. How can you do this? There are so many ways! You can post links to our blogs, Etsy shops, and Facebook fanpages; tweet with us or about us on Twitter; write reviews on your blogs, GoodReads, and Amazon; request our books at your local library; donate our zines to zine libraries or buy them for zine libraries; contact us for interviews; tell your local indie bookstores about us; if you work at a library or bookstore or have connections with them, get our work in stock and promote the hell out of it! And remember to always credit us when you share our work!
5. Organize! Book Events For Us. Attempting to find accessible spaces and contacts to book events can be a frustrating process, and interrupts the time usually devoted to writing and art-making; also, many of us weirdo artists are simply not good at what is commonly referred to as “networking”. Thus, we need help. When you help us organize events, you provide much-needed support in the form of time, energy, and talking-to-people; the events you organize for us create an important gathering spot for writers, artists, and our friends and community members, they help us “make a name” for ourselves, and they help generate an income and new supporters of our work. Organizing events is crucial! It’s a bothersome task, for sure, and sometimes discouraging, but it can also create genuine magic. If you can’t organize an event, but you can give us a couch to sleep on when we’re in your town, fill up our thermoses with coffee, or give us a ride to the bus station or airport, please do so!
6. Respect Our Boundaries. This is similar to respecting our time, but needs its own note because I cannot emphasize it enough. Much talk within the zine & art communities I participate in has been given to setting and respecting boundaries, but when you get right down to it, a lot of us are good at discussing & intellectualizing & philosophizing about boundaries, and not so good at actually creating and respecting them. Sometimes it feels like no matter how many times I clearly state my boundaries, my pals wanna break them; they expect more than I can give. An example of one of my boundaries is this: When you email me, a) don’t expect me to respond right away unless it’s an emergency, and b) don’t message me on any other social networking sites to tell me that you emailed me. Message received. Be patient. Another one of my boundaries is this: If you accidentally misgender me, apologize once and then shut up about it. I don’t care if you feel awkward or sad about it; I feel worse. I don’t talk to cis people about gender unless I’m being paid for it. Go talk it out with somebody else if you’re still having feelings.
7. Take Us Out or Cook Us A Meal. Sometimes I get lost in my writing and it’s not until I allow myself to pause and think that I realize I’m really hungry and I have to pee. It’s easy to forget about these mundane body things when we’re working; it’s equally easy to remember and just not take care of ourselves because we think our art is more important, and we must be at least a tiny bit self-destructive to keep making good art, right? We could discuss that question forever, but what I really want to say is – I like burritos and pizza, so feel free to take me out! If you have a roommate who’s an artist, or you live with your sweetheart who’s an artist, cook them a meal! Make lots so we can heat up leftovers! Make yummy things like kale and quinoa and fish that’ll be good for our bodies and brains! Pour us a tall glass of water to remind us we can’t live off coffee alone! The recovering alcoholic writer/artist in your life also appreciates a fancy root beer!
8. Tell Us You Love Us. Many of us writers and artists are miserable creatures; we are self-absorbed and self-hating, we feel dissatisfied with everything, and we are constantly asking ourselves, “Why bother?” Last week, I wrote about 10,000 words of my next novel and contacted spaces in California in which to do zine readings and workshops, three days ago I proposed a new collaborative workshop project with a dear friend, yesterday I thought about giving up writing altogether and swallowing all my psych meds, and today I’ve written 2,000 words and begun planning a Winter Survival Freaky Queerdo zine reading tour; “ups & downs” is too small a phrase to communicate how my artistic messed up brain works. The truth is, we need constant reminders that we are loved and appreciated, that our art and our selves are valued and cared for. It can be hard to say, “I love you,” especially to friends, but try it! Write it on a postcard, sign it on an email. Practice saying it out loud, perhaps while you are sharing a hug or talking on the phone if eye contact makes you feel uncomfortable. Practice accepting love and feeling loved, too.
9. Ask Us How You Can Help. Asking for help is hard. Many of us simply won’t do it. Try asking the writer or artist in your life what kind of help we need. Maybe we need a bunch of bananas and yogurt but can’t make it out to the grocery store today; maybe we need you to read a draft of the zine we’re working on and tell us if there are any typos. Make your support visible and tangible (at the same time, be sure to make your own boundaries clear – you don’t want us to rely on you for everything!).
Tip for Writers & Artists
Define “support.” Nobody can offer you support if they don’t know what that means! When you’re feeling unsupported, as many of us often do, try to write a list of what you need. Try to tell your friends what you need. Maybe you want someone to email you and check-in with you to make sure you’re still working on your project and feeling good about it (or maybe you want the opposite); maybe you need a coffee date with a friend as an excuse to get out of the house and generate new inspirations; maybe you need your friends to show up at your events instead of just telling you it’s a good idea and then staying home the day of. What does “support” mean to you? Write it down and share it.
None of us can survive without writing and art, so treat us well, support us, and pay us for our work!
If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments!
P.S.: I have new zines! Telegram #’s 30 & 31 are now available at schoolformaps.etsy.com. Issue 30 is about making stories tangible, finding reasons to live and not join The 27 Club, and my stuff being stolen when I was in Seattle. Issue 31 is about broke-femme identity, self-care & magic & ritual, chronic pain, glam rock, and winter survival.
P.P.S.: I’m going on tour! Two tours, actually.
In mid-December, me & a few pals are doing a Winter Survival Freaky Queerdo Tour; we’ll be reading zines, singing songs, and having discussions throughout Ontario and Québec. We’re gonna do an event-a-day in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kingston, Ottawa, Montréal, and Peterborough. Stay tuned for details and/or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wanna book us for a house show.
In February, I’ll be touring California! I’ll be reading in San Francisco on February 13th and tabling at LA Zinefest on February 16th. I’d really like to spend more time in San Francisco, as well as do readings and/or host workshops in the Bay Area (between February 10th-14th before I head to Los Angeles) so, again, if you wanna book me for a zine reading at your house or in your event space, please contact me at email@example.com.