There is a scary trend that seems to be creeping into the Arts, and into life in general and that is the Get Rich Quick mentality of dreams. There is a sense that one’s dream is SO important that others should want to make it come true and that it should supersede the dreams of others. Witness the rise of the Fund Me sites out there. Everyone under the sun now feels as if THEIR dream should be funded over the dreams of others. FUND ME! They cry, most giving little reason why you should, outside of friendship.
The thing about dreams though is that they don’t come easy, and they don’t come cheap. Not the ones that matter, anyway. And I can say this from experience.
My first book is a story collection entitled BACK FROM NOTHING. This was a book that I had put together and shopped for a good while to no avail. I was not yet 20 and was shopping my first book and had no understanding that this sort of stuff doesn’t just take years but takes luck as well. Along the way I came across a company that was interested in publishing the book…for a cost. It was called subsidy publishing and was similar to what we have now with self-publishing. I would pay all the costs to create and produce the book and they would release it, market it, and distribute it. It wasn’t ideal but it was my only option. I was a kid with little money so what money I could I put into it and the rest my family bankrolled. They believed in my dream enough to support me financially and it’s a debt greater than I can ever repay. A debt beyond money.
So I got the book published but as soon as I did the company went out of business and we had to pay shipping to get the books delivered to my house or they’d be scrapped. So much for dreams. Since that day I have been selling, promoting, and distributing the books myself. What I learned out of it all was that, even when I had the dream, of being published, it wasn’t what I thought it was. To really feel as if I had earned anything, had gotten anywhere, I would have to work at it. I had to believe in it enough to get my money together, to get my ideas together, and to do it myself. I had to go to conventions, I had to put out chapbooks, I had to keep figuring how to promote myself, how to sell my work, how to better my writing. It took a lot of things, a lot of time, but ten years after that first book I found a way to get another book out, self publishing, and again, it wasn’t ideal, but you make work what is available, so I did. And I did it, with a lot of help, but I did it myself. And it meant so much more. I love that first book, and I always will, but it wasn’t MINE. I had to put the time and work into make that happen.
Another example from my own life is the convention I do with some friends. It’s been a dream for years and years to bring a convention into downtown Flint. Since I love the horror genre it made sense to focus on a horror con. I had been putting together indie art shows in Flint for years so I had a feel for what needed to be done, it just…needed to be done. So I got friends together and we did it. As for the funding, I left that up to me, to great degrees, because it was my dream. I didn’t have a lot of money but I was willing to put a chunk on the line so we could do this. And it was my willingness to do this, my belief in it, that sold my friends, and when they were sold, our vendors and guests were sold, and when they were sold we found another funding source…because we put the work in. We were willing to do what had to be done to make it happen.
And that is what is missing in so many dreams these days.
We miss that even if you are given an opportunity you need to work to make it successful.
It is YOUR responsibility to make it come to life.
And so many dreams CAN be funded ourselves. Not easily maybe, but they can be. I hate seeing people essentially pan-handling for tips, for funding, and for support on something they are not convincing me is worth my investment, or anyone’s. I want all manner of things, on the business side and personally but those are for me to figure out. I can’t imagine going to people with my hand out and a little boy lost look on my face to get money.
You need to work for your dream.
You need to find ways to fund yourself that are not begging, that isn’t guilt, and that shows the value of your dream. You need to make your funders feel as if they are PART of that dream and are investing in not just a dream but a goal. You need to open your arms and embrace other people’s ideas, thoughts, and THEIR dreams that’s the way you show how important YOURS is. Otherwise you need to find your own funding.
Which is fine.
Some dreams are not meant to be shared.
Some dreams are so personal, so etched into who you are that to change them takes away what you loved in the first place. And if that is the case you need to be willing to sacrifice to make those dreams come true. You have to be willing to do what you have to to make it happen.
We are becoming a culture of Artists who do more whining about how we can’t do things than ones who find ways to do them. We need to close our hands into fists and start fighting for the things we want. And it is in that fighting where our dreams don’t just become real but become valuable, become necessary, and lead into new dreams.
Our dreams are our own and it’s time we started owning them.
Until we are willing to share our dreams, to grow them, evolve them, and to let other people’s dreams merge with them and change them, we need to stop asking for hand outs and find ways to make them come true on our own.