In recent weeks and months, I've been sharing the process of owning two farms, trying to sell one, and working to figure out the things we can afford to do or not in our new home. I try to be open on the blog, and I have been open about the emotional, financial and literal challenges of making this move at this time in this way. It is a big step, in some ways a risky one, in some ways a vital one.
This has prompted a continuous and growing outpouring of suggestions, concern, reassurance, advice and offers of financial help. A number of people – many people – believe I should ask my readers for help, or sign up with the growing number of programs that solicit money online or ask for donations. I might move the Studio Barn, sell shares in Bedlam Farm, turn it into an artist's retreat, find metal scrappers to tear down my collapsed barn, put up a donation button on my site, be careful in moving the animals. One person suggested I organize a work party of blog readers to tear down the collapsed barn.
These messages – almost all generous, kind and touching, some patronizing and annoying – have reached the point that I need to respond and share how I feel about this. These new kinds of digital communities have violated most of the traditional boundaries that defined the relationship between a writer and readers. I am always building new ones, I see. And it is possible I am giving off the wrong message, or that people are perceiving it incorrectly. So it is important to set the record straight.
First, when I write about the difficulties in my life, I am not seeking help or advice or suggestions. I believe in making my own decisions, my own mistakes. I know how to move, and I know how to move animals, barn cats, donkeys and dogs, and Maria and I know how to talk about our choices and try and make good ones. It is actually quite wonderful to be able to do that. To have problems, to solve them ourselves. I want to live my own life, not somebody else's idea of the kind of life I should live. I want to take my advice, not someone else's.
Second, I have no complaint or quarrel with people who seek donations to help with their lives, their blogs or their causes. I often contribute.
I want to be clear. I will not do that myself. If I have made the wrong choices about my life, if my viable time as a writer has come, if we can't afford to live in our new home, or have two homes, then I am responsible for that I will bear the consequences, not you. I don't want anyone donating money to support my life or my choices. It is an offensive idea to me. Self-determination is not about becoming dependent. Quite the opposite. I did not come all this way to live off of other people's money.
You all have your own lives, your own issues, your own concerns. I cannot solve your problems, and you cannot solve mine. When I say I have a problem, I am sharing my life with you, not asking for help or solutions. It would be helpful for me if you left me my problems to me to have and to solve. That is partly the point of life, my journey, my challenge. There are so many good things happening in my life, including things relating to my work, life and one day, even money. I will be fine, or I will not. I will let you know. I do not seek or want your help. There is a difference.
Then, how would I wish to be helped? If you want to help me – you are under no obligation to help me – then read my blog. Enjoy and share my photos, use them as screen savers and let them light up your life. Join me in exciting experiments like my first e-book, "The Story Of Rose," as so many of you did. The readers of my books and especially of this blog helped make the book a New York Times bestseller. That is the best and most appropriate help you could possibly give me.
You can help me help Battenkill Books by buying my books there. That is appropriate and meaningful help. Buy my new short story collection "Dancing Dogs" and let me know what you thought of it. I think the same is true of Maria. The only support she wishes is for people to love her work and buy it if they can and if they like it. You can follow my Facebook page and join in the conversations there. If you like my work, let me and others know. Post sincere reviews. Share my life with me on this blog I love and in my work.
I am a writer. That is my heart and soul, my identity and work. That is how I have made a living for 35 years, and how I will continue to make a living. I do not seek a subsidized life, and I will do well and be fine. I make my living as a writer, and if I can't do that, I will make a living doing something else. The way I intend to make my living is this: writing good books, growing as a writer, connecting with my audience, taking strong photographs, evolving in a creative way, changing where I need to change. I will be helping myself. I am.
Challenges are not just crises to me, they are the stuff of life, they define our character and purpose, and solving these problems is a joy and a gift. They can not be taken away or given away.
So how can you help me? Just read my work. Read this post. Come along for the ride.
And let me have my problems, as I will let you have yours. And thanks for caring.
I do appreciate it.