Generation Profit: Learning to Embrace the Pressure for Our Own Sakes

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By Kayla Lunden

In May of 2013, 35-year-old Jack Conte founded Patreon, an online crowdfunding platform that aims to connect artists and their patrons through a monthly subscription model. In an episode of the podcast Hannahlyze This, Conte told listeners that Patreon began because he wanted to “see if I could just make money by being creative and making a bunch of stuff.” He used Patreon to promote his music, and set up “perks,” or things to send to people who consistently supported him. The perks’ style range based on the artist, from jingles written specifically for patrons, to access to private email lists, and beyond. Now, with more than 3 million patrons supporting more than 100,000 artists, Patreon is changing the way young artists can support themselves.

My generation of artists are largely defined by their entrepreneurship, finding creative ways to support their art (i.e. crowdfunding). Patreon makes accessible for artists just starting out what otherwise has always been a mystery: how to build a following, connect with other artists, and get your work out to an audience that hopefully buys it. By facilitating a direct artist-patron relationship and taking out the middle men (i.e. agents, gallery owners, etc.) the pressure of how to support oneself is lessened, leaving more time for making art.

Maria Licciardi is a Painting and Drawing senior at SUNY Purchase who, through Patreon, will make you 1-3 small unique pieces of art per month for a $10 monthly subscription. Licciardi’s senior project involves making comfort items: life-sized and smaller stuffed animals made from recycled leather. Licciardi incorporates a lot of recycled “garbage” into her work, something of a signature of hers. In working with leather, Licciardi has discovered things she shares with the material. “The skins are scraps that have been deserted because they’re ‘not good enough,’ or damaged. I identify with this leather; its being abandoned and with this idea in society that to be sensitive is a flaw.”

Brand new to Patreon since July of 2019, Licciardi already has 3 consistent patrons and is still figuring it out. She shares that it has been a bit intimidating, but mostly, she is excited to learn more about the platform and its malleability. “Patreon has the potential to fuel my art whatever it is; whether I’m between painting and drawing, sculpture, or if I go into, like, knitting scarves.”

Licciardi doesn’t always feel the pressure of mass creation the way many of us do. Instead, she finds in it a sense of purpose. “I think (pressure) is extremely necessary for me to function and be the person I really need to be. I love helping people and being of use.” In regards to keeping up with perks, she’s always creating for class, exhibits, fun; if she’s not selling something on one platform, they become perks through Patreon.

There are ups and downs to having clientele who consistently expect new work. “I need to follow through. I need to be consistent. I need to make this (Patreon) something that is a priority.” Licciardi loves that Patreon isn’t short-term, like a project on Gofundme, but career-based. “The goal is forever,” she said referring to the support network she intends to build. Licciardi believes in not being frugal when it comes to supporting fellow artists. “It’s like how classical radio stations say ‘we depend on you.’”

Although a Creative Writing major on the poetry track, I also write fiction, paint realistic pictures of breakfast tables, and sing jazz improv that has brought grown men to their knees. SUNY Purchase artists do not want to shy away from double and triple branding themselves, and this is not because we don’t have a passion for anything, so we choose everything. Rather, we have a passion for creation and connection that manifests in manifold ways. Thanks to sharing this passion with Jack Conte, Patreon has materialized as a new and effective way of sustaining our art and all that comes with it.

Check out Maria Licciardi’s Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/forestcamel/posts?month=2019-8

Make A Move: The Benefits of Mentorship

by Dylan McKenna

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What is a mentor? Definitions include: an experienced and trusted adviser; someone who shares with a mentee information about career paths; a person who provides guidance, motivation and role modeling. Depending on the context and relationship between parties, these descriptions all fit. I have experienced them at each step of my journey as a writer, but have not always taken full advantage. Had I done so, I’d probably be better off.

When I was in 11th grade I took whatever English class was required. Like other courses throughout my schooling, this class was basically comprised of practicing grammar, analyzing texts, and composing essays. But it was taught by a professor who gave me, like many of his other students, my first ever creative writing assignment: it was my first time writing fiction.

My story (a fantastical spec-ops thriller about my eccentric then-employer) went over quite well. Most found it funny, though no one was required to read it. It only came to their attention after our teacher brought it up; his interest in my writing sparked the interest of others. On top of the joy I experienced in creating characters and plots, this assignment opened doors to the world of fiction. It was my starting point and initial source of encouragement. My professor was experienced, and I trusted him. But given the high school environment, I didn’t speak with him about career paths or publication, or even meet with him outside of the classroom. And although I’d clearly been interested, writing was then for me a hobby and not a discipline. While my teacher was not exactly a mentor in the ways many people would define it, I still consider him a “ghost” mentor. That is to say, our collaboration was not very deep, but his presence was meaningful. He got me writing stories.

In college, my fiction professor ran things more seriously, and his comic personality not only reminded me of the man who got me writing in the first place, but connected with me personally. Our class met always in circles, received more writing assignments than the previous course, and held even more concentrated workshop meetings complemented by analyses of a wide range of texts. At the behest of our teacher, I met with other students outside of class to continue the conversation. He never used the word “mentor” as an offer of his time during office hours to discuss our work and plan career paths after graduation. Still, I did eventually accept his offers, and we met several times to talk about such things. However, I graduated from the program to move onto another in a new university, and we lost touch.

All of these people shaped my writing and helped me mature as a writer. But I never asked them to be my mentors. They were all ghost mentors to me, despite their incredible assistance. I never got the full package experience, so to speak. And that is because I, as student, did not pursue such relationships sufficiently. So, my advice to young writers already in academia is to take advantage of your resources: from office hours to clubs to free lectures, shows, talks, screenings, etc. A mentor is perhaps the most valuable in terms of growth. If a good one is available, and open to cooperation, it would truly be a waste not to at least propose this to him or her. People filled with knowledge and experience surround you in your academic environment, and to ignore them for the sake of saving yourself extra work is unwise—the work is why you’re there in the first place. Isn’t it?

Telling Time With Andrei Tarkovsky

By Colin Sharp-O’ Connor

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In his directorial manifesto Sculpting in Time, Andrei Tarkovsky took a firm stance against the predominant directorial tradition in film (at his time of writing in the 1960s) known as “montage cinema,” in which the continuity and rhythm of a film is ultimately the result of its editing, the way each shot is strung together. To him this approach was backwards. It was nonsensical to speak about time as a phenomenon arising from component parts because time is the fundamental element of film, and each shot only a length of its passage. Rather, proper editing was dictated by a quality of each shot that Tarkovsky called “time pressure.” Only by considering this particular quality, the felt experience of time in each shot, could the film be put together; or back together, for Tarkovsky seems to consider all parts of filmmaking after the shooting is done to be as much reconstruction as construction, piecing together the time already immanent in his material rather than building it artificially through cuts and rearrangement. The results of this bottom-up approach are evident even in Tarkovsky’s earliest films — the simple passage of time carries a weight and veracity undisturbed from shot to shot.

Writers have a particular flexibility when it comes to the passage of time. Since the medium has no inherent bond to it the way that film or music do, prose is capable of compressing years into sentences and drawing pages out of seconds. It can consider time historically or speculatively, as a series of snapshots or as broad, far-reaching strokes — its only limits are the imagination and linguistic dexterity of its author. With such a remarkably athletic medium, any writer working with time, which presumably includes most of us, might consider adopting Tarkovsky’s editing ethos.

The major difference between film and prose, at least in respect to creating a sense of felt time, is that a writer creates his sentences from scratch where the director or cameraman is stuck with the reality in his viewfinder. This both simplifies and complicates things; on the one hand it allows the writer complete control over the impression a certain timeframe makes, not only its actual length — if it spans minutes or only moments — but whether that time slips by unobtrusively or makes every word felt; on the other it demands the conscious consideration of these elements at every step of composition. This is true of directing also, but in prose it’s no less necessary to have a strong vision of the scene at hand while each sentence is written. A writer who neglects the immediate (daresay, cinematic) sense of being in a given moment has no foundation to build an impactful scene; the time pressure of his sentences will fit poorly and without intention. Conversely, a well-envisioned sentence is imbued with a kind of poetry, a sense of existence stretching beyond the words on the page. Good fiction, like good art in general, becomes alive in its own right when it can provide its reader with such a felt experience.

Why is Feeling Not Enough? A Defense for Poems That Open Doors

 

By Channa Goldman

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I was seventeen years old when I read HOWL by Allen Ginsburg, and three billion firecrackers went off in my chest at lines such as: “I’m with you in Rockland/ where we hug and kiss the United States under/ our bedsheets the United States that coughs all/ night and won’t let us sleep”; or: “On the impulse of winter midnight streetlight small town rain.” The latter line I found so beautiful that I’d reread it every day for the next three years, and I still think about that image often. Now, as a twenty-year-old studying poetry at Purchase College, if you asked me what I think those lines mean, I could give you an answer. Or, I could be honest and cut the bullshit — and say I don’t really know, and I don’t really think it matters. I think the importance of Ginsburg’s work is in image, mood, and the emotion the poem evokes, rather than trying to discern some secret meaning.

In the analysis of poetry, it’s common to dissect a poem as one would an insect in biology, but instead of medical instruments, one uses poetic jargon to interpret the poem’s ‘meaning’— and too often, this results in the notion held by many that poetry is for poets— not everyone. Many people have told me that they don’t read poetry because they can’t understand the “meaning,”— as if there’s one secret message to be discerned. When discussing poems, I hear endless language all aimed towards articulating the ‘meaning,’ and too often, if you can’t articulate that exact meaning, you’re just made to feel like you’re missing something. Well, I say that’s not necessarily the entire aim of poetry.

Don’t get me wrong— some poems are written with the intention of readers deriving a specific moral or message, and of course that’s great. I am advocating on behalf of the poems that aren’t, and how we shouldn’t feel the need to read them and pick them apart for something that wasn’t intended. Poetry, like any art form, employs technical craft and skill. There are rules and practices which guide a particular form, and it’s not all random. But this shouldn’t deter the average person from deriving pleasure from reading poems. If at seventeen someone told me I ‘didn’t get’ HOWL, I probably would’ve cried. Ginsburg opened the door for me to fall in love with sound and language. It didn’t matter that I didn’t necessarily get ‘the message’. The feeling a poem evokes in the reader is as equally powerful.

Non-poets can take from a poem what is meaningful to them, whether that be an image or turn of phrase. So you don’t talk about the pentameter of a poem, or its cadence, or how many lines are in a sonnet, or what the hell a sestina is. Should that prevent you from avoiding the form altogether? Is poetry just for poets? I think not. The power of poetry is something everyone can access in varying degrees, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply missing the magic.

The Importance of Taking a Step Back

By Kris Rubertone

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It’s no secret that writing in the heat of an emotional moment helps a writer understand her feelings. However, it’s only in revision that the writer can clearly gauge whether she has effectively evoked that particular emotional truth, and whether it has a similar effect on the reader. Does the language conjure again those deeply felt sentiments once the heat of the moment has passed? To lose that feeling and have to come back to it at a later time can be a very eye opening and beneficial experience for the writer.

I feel that both steps are necessary in creating an honest and raw piece of work. First and foremost, I believe that emotion is very important when it comes to creating art, and if one can capture it in the moment then there is no better time to do so. However, I think it’s very important to take a step back from your work once you’ve written it and let all that feeling settle. When you return to it, and you should, you’ll be better to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t. It’s easy to think of cliches and stereotypes, especially when you’re in a state where they’re basically all you can relate to as they are the first thing that pops into our heads when we are feeling certain emotions.

There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to relate to these cliches, but it’s more beneficial to return to the work in a controlled state of mind so you can manipulate them into something specific to what you’re feeling and expand on the feelings and thoughts you couldn’t wrap your head around so much when you first wrote your piece. Over time, you start to cool off and feel less of what you were feeling . Then you can be more clear minded to get a sharper idea of how you want your work to turn out.Just as well, when you do return to your work after having written the first draft and you’re in a completely different state of mind, this could be useful to go through your works and grasp emotions from another state of mind to expand and elaborate your piece. That way, it is not limited to one standalone emotion, but that standalone emotion can be supported by others to amplify its importance within the piece.

I think from the writer’s perspective and viewpoint the editing process is seen as something bad , and kind of nerve wracking – I can attest to this. But these are important steps in order to make your work better. When in a more placid state, my thoughts are all over the place. I end up just throwing whatever I’m thinking onto the page, and when I’m feeling better and good enough to return to my poem, I’m able to pick out the things that really matter and make sense and shape. Then I can change them into something more coherent and understandable for the reader, being able to really get into detail of the subject.

Usually, when I write poetry, it doesn’t take any visual form; especially if I’m in too emotional a state. So going back to my work afterwards allows me to find the shape my work is supposed

Yeah, I Didn’t Finish That One. It Was Too Long.

By Winnie Richards

Whether it’s a novel, a poem or a news article, you can bet  the longer it is, the fewer readers you’ll have. In our fast-paced, ever-changing world of technology, there is little appetite for the lengthy. Why would I read an entire news article when the headline tells me everything? Why would I read a nine-hundred page novel when fan-fiction can tell a hot, fast paced story in a few pages? Who needs a three page poem with big words and metaphors if I can use a pretty three line poem as my Instagram caption and get three-hundred likes.

It’s not exclusively our fault. As young Americans, we have severely weakened our ability to deal with ideas and images that take time to understand. The media we take in every day both dictates and reacts to our dwindling attention spans. Now if you’re an American, that sounds pretty offensive. But really it’s not! This anomaly isn’t a product of us becoming increasingly stupid. It’s exactly the opposite! With our access to knowledge expanding exponentially with every technological advancement, we are more equipped than ever to handle difficult issues and more content with complicated ideas. Our minds are capable of fantastic feats—our abilities with a thousand-page novel are the least of our worries! The fact is, it’s not about our ability at all: it’s about our desire. We simply don’t want to read a thousand-page novel or a book-length poem. We’ve moved on.

And so what? Who cares if no one wants to read Moby Dick anymore? It’s fine if no one can be bothered to read the whole Constitution, we know the gist of it. Right? But that’s where things get tricky. No matter how you try to get around it, some things just can’t be said in a headline. Some ideas take more room to expand fully, more patience to understand truly. Look, I can tell you that Captain Ahab just really wants to catch one special whale. There, the story’s done! But I promise you will never know what that image of the great white whale meant to him, why it haunted his every breathing moment, and what exactly it means for the life that each of us lives; how and why we are Ahab, and where and who is our whale.

If I were a politician, I could easily tell you that nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does it state that an individual has the right to privacy, and I wouldn’t be lying. Thus, you couldn’t really argue with me when I expunge Roe v. Wade. But, you’d never know that the Constitution’s penumbral rights outline an almost indisputable case for the government not to be allowed to infringe upon the privacy between a woman and her doctor.

Now I’m not saying that we all need to rush out and start reading the Constitution and Moby Dick cover to cover. But the point remains: some things can be fulfilled in a few pages, in a few lines, in a few words—and some things cannot. We must be prepared and open to handle both. It is a dangerous day when we close ourselves off to information, and to art, that comes to us in a challenging and unfamiliar form.

Does Content Matter?

by Amy Middleton

What convinces a reader to pick up a book? As writers, we are told that the opening line, in particular, is meant to pull them in and hopefully convince them to stay for a while. Being that it is the first thing any reader would read, it seems obvious that the opening line is the answer, but if you ask a graphic designer, you would probably get a very different answer. As both a writer and a designer, I am, of course, often in a stalemate when it comes to this question. The designer says that without a beautiful cover no one will even be willing to read the actual words. The writer says that if the words are beautiful even poor design wouldn’t dissuade a reader.

So what exactly is poor design? This might seem an intimidating question for people with little formal knowledge of graphic design practices, but really we all know poor design when we see it. In the example below, “Citilife St.Petersburg,” anyone can see that the cover is unreadable and overwhelming. The title of the magazine, for example, uses three different typefaces against a background of bright yellow and red, making the words even more difficult to read. The words of the heading are also distorted, or stretched. While it’s possible to distort words and use different types or bright colors on their own, the text is visually overwhelming when these elements are piled on top of one another. It is an essential skill of a graphic designer to know when a little bit of funky design crosses the line.

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In the example “Billboard,” we can see how a good designer pays attention to where they employ different typefaces and distortions. Using a large, distinct typeface for the title of the magazine ensures it’s recognizable and readable. Variations in typeface are used for creating categories of subtitles and pull quotes, conveying a hierarchy of information. Distortion is used not to make the words on the page look any different from their original typeface, but to work with the cover photo. Just by that slight tilt, the words are cleanly working with the photo to create a more alluring and interesting design than if they were straight.

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Subtle and clean cover design doesn’t mean boring, as many people worry. It is simply a good practice for readability. A good designer knows how to create a cover that is both interesting and polished, the perfect balance to convince a reader to actually pick up the book and open to the first page.

When it comes to enticing a reader to pick up a book or magazine, we will always judge it by its cover. Unless a reader is looking for a specific writer, the cover has to be visually interesting enough to get the reader’s attention. Obviously, content does matter, but good design is what inspires a reader browsing in the bookstore to pick up a book in the first place. There is no opening line good enough to convince a reader to read without a well designed cover because they need to open the book first.

Mapping Your Way to Complex Characters

By Cerissa DiValentino

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The disorienting feeling you experience after finishing a novel wherein the characters feel like someone you know in real life demonstrates the power complex characters have over our emotions. As writers, we aim to immerse our readers so completely into the world we’ve created that they’re hesitant to leave it. Most importantly, we want our readers to feel an emotional bond to our characters because it means we did our job right. Written effectively, complex characters have the ability to sustain narrative urgency and continue to impress upon the reader long after they’ve finished the book.

To that end, the best plots are character-driven, and it’s through the tension between a character’s desires and their internal and external obstacles that the reader latches onto the story, aiming to figure out how this character is going to obtain what they so badly want. The reader loves to root for the underdog rather than the perfect cheerleader who has won Prom Queen three years in a row. Readers empathize with flawed characters living outside the limelight in hopes that eventually, through struggle, they’ll achieve their desires and shine.

As a helpful tool in crafting complex characters, I suggest character mapping. Start by looking at your central character and asking the question: what is it that my character really wants? After you have come up with an answer, ask yourself: what are the obstacles in my character’s path (both internal and external). Next: what are some ways my character can achieve their desires despite these obstacles? Once you have an outline of what your character desires, what obstacles they face and how they are going to persevere, you already have a plot in the making and you’re ready to start writing.

For example, in Courtney Maum’s Costalegre, the novel follows Lara, a fifteen-year-old girl who is constantly neglected by her mother, but deeply desires to be cherished by her. Lara is a developing artist living on the island of Costalegre with a group of outcast artists her mother has rescued from Europe at the start of Hitler’s regime. Throughout the novel, it’s obvious to the reader that Lara wants her mother to appreciate her artwork as she does the work of the artists she has rescued. Lara’s perseverance to become a skilled artist, thinking that her mother might pay her more attention if she is more talented, breaks my heart and makes me feel closer to her. As the reader, I am instantly drawn to Lara’s inner conflict and feel her desire for motherly love as if it is my own. As the character who is dismissed by others throughout the novel, she becomes the reader’s entire focus because we wish for her to achieve her desires as much as she does.

People are constantly searching for something that will make them feel more alive, more aware, or in other words, simply more human. We fall in love with characters that emulate all human behavior, including flaws. Characters that desire more than what they have and go against the general grain of society to achieve it, make us root for them. When Lara takes off on a horse despite the oncoming storm because she wants to prove to the adult artists that she has her own agency, we are rooting for her with our fists high in the air. If your characters are as multifaceted as you are human, the reader will find those characters more enticing than any typical, popular cheerleader.