Monday, October 16, 2017

Any Donkey...

This person sends me comments like this all the time. She's the only one going out of her way to do so these days. That's a nice change from when this blog was more popular and I might get 2 or 3 of these a week. Not having a book deal in a while does have some perks...

I stopped taking random comments here, so for her to send this to me at 8:30 on a Saturday night meant she had to scan back through the blog and then choose to write this anonymous (of course) comment. I rarely get her love letters in my inbox thanks to spam filters, but this one slid through. It's a little too personal and scary not to address.

Far as comment's go it's pretty damn inspirational. Once you get past the whole pretending-to-be-gay part she's accusing me of my dream job and calling it a scam. A job I don't actually have but do want. How wonderful to write well and honestly enough that hundreds would want to support it financially?! And when not writing I am out doing the things and living the life that brings me joy?! I'm pretty sure that is the goal of every writer in all history of the written word for entertainment, ever.

I think any of us working in self-employed or creative fields are used to this accusation. That we are playing instead of working. A real job isn't fun. It sucks. And if anyone has managed to make an income "playing" they must be living some nefarious lie or doing something scandalous on the side. Especially if they are a single woman.

Or! She is lucky, which is so much worse. It means I have it and you don't.

Cosmic injustice. Undeserved Karma. Witch.

But that isn't my reality. I am not that lucky or interesting. I am here living like this because it has been my only goal for a decade.

Few people are monthly patrons (16, I just checked). Yes, sometimes I get an email or random paypal gift or check in the mail. This is because another adult—of their own free will—wanted to send it and I am insanely grateful if they do. It doesn't happen often but when it does it encourages the hell out of me to keep going.

A few years ago I made a humble chunk of my income from writing books. These days I mostly make a living as a farmer and freelance designer and writer. I sell shares of poultry, lamb, and pork. I make a lot of goatsmilk soap. I sell services in the arts like design, illustration, music lessons, and public speaking - mostly centered around agriculture, folklore, and animals. My entire living wage centers around my lifestyle. It is fueled by the humble audience I have built by blogging about my life for over a decade, publishing 6 books, speaking at national and local events, and being active on social media as a public figure.

That is the thing critics never seem to acknowledge when accusing personalities of accepting handouts instead of punching time cards; the work behind building an audience. The effort that goes into a writer's consistent work to reach more people and be heard. To find a community. To create the kind of words and daily life that makes people want to sign up for Patreon - that is the job.

Here's my real financial life: Every day I make an income goal on my daily to do list. Usually it is around $200. Between sales from farming, classes, soap, illustrations, logos, and yes, blog subscribers I aspire to reach that goal. I usually don't.

So far today I made $10 from one reader subscription and found a five dollar bill crumbled in an old pair of pants while sorting laundry. That puts me at $185 to go to make goal. I hope to make that in sales but I probably wont. Which means not spending any money unless I have to. It means tacking that amount on tomorrow's goal. This is my mastermind system: trying and throwing dice.

I have a couple thousand people paying attention to me. My gamble is that one or two a day will email me about something I have to offer an actually purchase it. There are no guarantees. There's just asking to be hired. Most people don't even reply back once I send rates.

But making it the goal every day is something I can strive towards! I may go 5 days without a single sale and then make four logo sales and sell a fiddle workshop in a weekend! I have had to learn to tango with this uncertainty and it changed how I live to accommodate it. More on that later.

Some other things:

I'm not gay, but feel free to call me gay if you like. I am queer. A blanket term used by the LGBTQ+ community for the non-straight. I'm bisexual and always have been (that's the B in LGBT), but it took a long time to come out because of my own personal fears and self acceptance issues. I wrote about this in detail on National Coming Out Day over on Twitter. I don't talk about it here because I don't think my sexuality has anything to do with farming, wanting a farm, keeping a farm, or the life I built here. I also have never talked about my dating or sex life on this blog. It's not that kind of blog.

I have problems sleeping some nights because of anxiety. I am not on any medication for anxiety because I have found being active and having this farm is best remedy. Caring about something bigger than myself and a farm to fight for turns fear into motivation.  Guys, I'm rarely lonely but that doesn't mean I am not alone. On this site you see a woman on draft horses, tossing bales, or flying hawks. But at the end of the day that same woman goes to bed alone and in the dark is scared of being hurt, broke, or homeless.

What you see on Twitter or Instagram is the most interesting things I am doing. If you base my lifestyle off social media, well, that's bananas. Just because that is what I post doesn't mean it is all I am doing. If I filmed my entire day it would be 75% of me sitting in front of this desktop in my living room. Pictures of me unshowered at a desk do not get posted. This isn't the Truman Show. I share the more exciting and pretty things.

And if I get to 11AM after tending and feeding an entire farmload of animals, three client's emailed with updated work, daily writing done, and want to take a break with an hour of horseback riding, hunting, fishing, swimming, archery or running then GUESS WHAT! That is what you see posted. And it's done mid day because that is when I have and need the break. Evening schedule is molded around evening chores. My time to live the life I work for is the middle of the day/afternoon when I used to be sitting in a corporate office.

Reasons I am able to live like this:
  • I am single and childless. (This is the main reason.) Any income I do earn is responsible for just one human being.
  • Every piece of furniture I own is second hand. Nothing is new, modern, or fancy.
  • I do not use a microwave, AC, dishwasher, washing machine/dryer.
  • I paid off all my credit cards, save one with an embarrassingly low limit.
  • My electricity costs are low and mostly used for hot water, the fridge, stove, light bulbs, the computer/internet, and electric fences outside.
  • My heat is firewood. I tend a stove, not a thermostat.
  • My truck is paid for, all $1900 of it. My insurance is only $48 a month.
  •  I do not travel. I have not left this farm for one night in over six years.
  • I have no cell phone/smart phone.
  • I have no television or cable. (I use streaming services on a 7 year old computer).
  • My other bills (outside the farm costs/kiva) are down to mortgage, utilities, insurance and student loans.
  • All those things I do for fun happen right outside my door: the horses, the falconry, the shooting archery - all done in my backyard or on this mountain done without starting up the truck or spending money. I already have the horse and tack, bow and arrows, hawk and glove - etc. If I want to swim or fish it is a 4 mile drive to Shushan. I can do these in the time I used to take off for lunch at a corporate job.
This is how I manage to live like this. It's ten years of choices at a time in my life when they were possible to make without influence of a spouse, family, or children. My real luck was falling in love with farming when I was young enough, single enough, and stubborn enough to pursue it with blinders on. And to do so when there was a backyard farming craze sweeping publishing.

I didn't care if I went half a year without a flushing toilet, hot water, or constant nightmares. And since it's just me no one was getting exhausted and tired and wanted me to quit. Being single made me a seed.

I knew if I kept going eventually I would either collect the readership, or that magic book deal, or something like a TV or movie option, or something that would pay off. And if it isn't some magical windfall it will be the skills, choices, and life I molded myself and circumstances into. That I would just get better at being a professional Jenna Woginrich. I still believe I can do this.

I have shared a very intimate story online for over ten years. It's been one-sided though, for 99% of you. You know more about me and my life than you may know about your own neighbors, cousins or siblings. This gives people a mostly positive feeling of agency in my story. I get messages about first farms purchased because they saw I could do it. I get pictures of first horses, chickens, and even new marriages that happened because of a love of homesteading. That's the reason I do this. I chose to tell my story publicly because giving you the chance to read it meant I wasn't so alone.

The truth about my everyday life is that I am alone, anxious, and stubborn. And the amazing thing is I like that about myself. I like being single. I like being nervous. And I like being too stubborn to know when to quit. I don't have the talent to be an amazing writer. I don't have the kind of heart that gets to fall in love. But I do have the tenacity of a steel bear trap and that is where I put all my chips in.

I can't help people sending me messages like this. But over the years I have learned it has a lot more to do with the person sending them than it does with me. My skin grew thicker. My friendships and family I found over the years grew and aided in that growing strength.

Because of the internet I am able to live this Fantasy life, yes. But the Fantasy is a small part of the overall, messy, picture. I wish I had hundreds of people cheering me on and mailing payments for this blog. I wish my books were flying off the shelves and people in California talked about scripts and rights. But wishing doesn't pay the bills. What does is the hard work and ethics I have created over a decade of being shit on for following a dream publicly. And those moments are not a blink of deterrent in a life I built, created, and fight for every day.

Any donkey can kick down a barn.
It takes a special one to build one, you jackass.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

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