Since August of 2019, I’ve been saying almost every week, “I’ll be starting a Patreon campaign in the near future.” Considering six months have passed with no sign of this happening, you’ve probably been tempted to think I gave up on it.
Thankfully, that’s not the case.
On the contrary, I’ve been working diligently to ensure every aspect of my Patreon campaign is as smooth, professional, and rewarding as possible. And, despite the arduous length of time it took to finish, it is.
But before I get into my Patreon launch, I’d like to give you a little backstory on this blog, which will be the focus of my Patreon campaign. After all, the future only makes sense when you have a working knowledge of the past that led up to it.
A Blog Begins
When I started Mark All My Words back in July of 2015, I knew I wanted to create a vehicle for original writing and photography with a focus on nature. Beyond that, I was unsure. I had only just started hiking regularly, and I was still finding out exactly how to write about the experiences I was having. Beyond that, I hadn’t come into contact with many of the historic locations (including Cole Mill, the Eno River Rock Quarry, the Anthony Cole House, the Durham Pump Station, and Occoneechee Speedway) that would eventually form the backbone of later stories.
So, for a while, I was quiet on my blog. Despite this, I was still productive; I was exploring new places, doing research, and developing ideas. Then, by the first quarter of 2016, I found I was hiking more or less on a monthly basis. I had reached a point where my voice and research habits were strong enough that I felt capable of doing justice to my blog, and so I gave it my best shot.
But not everything was smooth sailing.
The Month That Tried to Kill Me
Then, in February of 2016, I experienced one of the most traumatic episodes of my adult life: I fell in love.
More to the point, I fell in love with a follower of mine on Instagram who befriended me, seduced me, and lied to me repeatedly about his intentions. As a result, we became involved in an online relationship, despite never meeting. Then, after four months of believing that we might have a legitimate future together, I woke up one day to find that he had vanished into thin air.
Out of sheer desperation, I reached out to him in a public Instagram post on Valentine’s Day of 2016, hoping against hope for some kind of explanation and reconciliation. Rather than reconciling, however, he lied to me all over again, slandered me to his friends and family, and led them to believe — erroneously, of course — that I was a pervert, a sex criminal, and a rapist. As you can imagine, I was utterly devastated, and since that time I’ve been resolutely celibate out of a fervent desire to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
For a year after Bobby disappeared, I was broken. I hardly touched Mark All My Words. I seriously considered shutting it down and abandoning the internet altogether. Everything on it reminded me of him, and at that point all I wanted was to forget.
The Value of Writing It Out
Then, by February of 2017, after a year of feeling like I was dead inside, I finally decided I couldn’t run from my feelings any more. I had to deal with them before they destroyed me. And so I did what I had to do — which, as a writer, is to write.
So write I did. And what resulted was the most popular and resonant story I’ve ever written on Mark All My Words.
Of course it wasn’t easy writing it. On the contrary, it felt like pulling a rusty nail out of my foot with a pair of old pliers and no anaesthetic. But after the shock of exposing my innermost thoughts and feelings to the world, I found I could get on with my life. Beyond that, I could also get on with my blog.
And so I did for the next year. From February of 2017 to February of 2018 I wrote a story every month on a recent experience of nature, culture, hiking, or wildlife. I injected as much of my own personal life into it as possible to ensure that people would understand where I was coming from and why I was doing what I was doing. And for a year, it worked.
Then things took a turn for the worst.
The Month That Tried to Kill Me, a Second Time
Of course you already know about the first time the month of February tried to kill me, back in 2016. As if that weren’t enough, February of 2018 did the same thing. Only this time, it didn’t just figuratively try to kill me; it literally tried to kill me.
Sadly, I still don’t know the exact nature of what happened at that time. As you probably know from a prior story, I have an undiagnosed chronic illness. I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t get it diagnosed. Therefore I don’t know what it is. But, as evidenced by the apparent case of spinal meningitis that I experienced in February of 2018, it is a significant and potentially lethal illness that I’m living with.
And, as far as I can tell, I still have it.
Recovering as Best I Can
Even so, I do my best to take care of myself. I run, workout, and do flexibility training on a daily basis. I avoid any and all unnecessary risks like smoking, drinking, popping pills, chewing tobacco, partying, clubbing, and hooking up. I’ve been celibate for more than four years now, avoiding any and all sexual contact with anyone for any reason. I hike on a weekly basis. I cook, bake, and prepare almost every meal from scratch in accordance with the paleo diet. I take flax seed oil, turmeric, and a men’s daily multivitamin.
And for the most part, my strategy is working.
Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve felt much better. I’ve had far fewer instances of shooting pain, stabbing pain, and electrical pain. I’ve regained sensation in the regions of my body that were previously numb, including my chest, stomach, neck, legs, and face. I’ve recovered my balance and stability after several instances of ataxia that left me feeling like the world was spinning off its axis. I have much less abdominal pain and inflammation and therefore much less redness, swelling, and discomfort in my midsection.
All in all, I’ve almost fully recovered.
Trying a Different Approach
After my brush with mortality, I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I had been wanting to do so for many years, and I was worried that if I didn’t try it soon, I might never get the chance. So I took a hiatus from Mark All My Words from February to August of 2019, during which time I wrote and submitted several short stories and novellas for publication.
In the meantime, I created a submissions page (which I’ve since deactivated) to allow other people the opportunity to contribute to my blog in my absence. I made it as simple and straightforward as possible, and I opened it to anyone and everyone who might have an interest.
And the response was staggering.
Over a period of six months, from February to August, I got a total of no more than four submissions. That’s right: four. Even though I have almost 3,000 subscribers on WordPress and almost 5,000 followers on Instagram.
Now, in all fairness, I did essentially no publicity for my submissions page. I didn’t write about it at length on WordPress or Instagram or Facebook. I didn’t post links to it on other websites. I didn’t cajole friends and family members into posting links all over social media. I didn’t bribe a spurious third party in Russia to act as my digital pimp.
I just put it up there and waited… and waited… and waited…
Returning to What Works
Eventually, however, I realized waiting wasn’t going to be enough.
So, in August of 2019, I decided to reboot my blog. I got a new theme, replaced the old header, organized and edited old stories, and generally tried to make the place all shiny and new. And, for the most part, I succeeded.
With the decision to reboot my blog, I also decided to take it more seriously. Of course I’ve always taken my blog seriously, as you can tell if you look back at some of my earliest stories regarding the deteriorating quality of Instagram, the history behind Thanksgiving, and the reality of climate collapse.
But previously I had only posted new stories on a monthly basis, depending on my level of health. Now I decided to do it on a weekly basis, even though I knew the schedule would add a significant workload for me and increase the likelihood that I would experience a deterioration in my health just as I had in February of 2018, when I thought I was on death’s doorstep.
But I was determined to let nothing stop me.
Making a Big Decision
It was at this point that I realized something. In order for Mark All My Words to be a sustainable venture going into the future, I would need to generate some form of revenue from it, especially now that I was facing the very real prospect of crippling medical expenses that could easily result from a downturn in my health or a relapse of the undiagnosed chronic illness from which I suffer.
With this realization, the range of options became very clear. They consisted of the following:
- Run monetized ads on my site.
- Solicit corporate sponsors for paid product placement.
- Put up a paywall to incentivize subscriptions.
- Shut down Mark All My Words.
- Start a Patreon campaign.
The first of these options (running monetized ads) was clearly not the way I wanted to go, since I loathe and abhor ads of any kind and would never put my readers through that kind of nonviolent torture. Not to mention, it would be a betrayal of everything I stand for, since I would be subsidizing the truth with thinly veiled lies in order to sell useless junk that would ultimately end up in a landfill, polluting our planet and endangering our future.
The second of these options (soliciting corporate sponsors) was also clearly not the way I wanted to go, since I refuse to sell my endorsement of anyone or anything for any price. No matter how much other bloggers may try to sugar-coat it, that’s really what corporate sponsorship is: the new pay-for-play. And I want no part of it.
The third of these options (putting up a paywall) was also not the way I wanted to go, though admittedly I did consider it for a while. After all, it does have the appeal of providing some sort of dependable revenue stream for the long haul, and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve ads or sponsorships. However, it also limits the number of people who will be able to read, learn from, and share my work. And since I want as many people as possible to benefit from my work, this approach is about helpful as trying to run a marathon in West Africa while wearing a parka and snowshoes.
The fourth of those options (shutting down Mark All My Words) is the last thing I would ever want to do. I’ve poured too much of my heart and soul into this blog over the past four years to even consider it. Yet, if the time ever came when I found myself with mounting medical expenses that I couldn’t pay and an increasing need to take on additional modes of employment, I might have to give it up simply in order to keep myself breathing. After all, survival is nature’s strongest incentive.
So what does that leave me with?
You guessed it: a Patreon campaign. (For those of you who already know how Patreon works, you can skip to the bottom of this story or head over to my Patreon page without further ado.)
This Thing Called Patreon
As you may have guessed from the tone of the above list, I haven’t always been keen on this idea. After all, I’d prefer not to pester people about something that may be unfamiliar or intimidating to them. Beyond that, I know enough about Patreon to know that if you want to succeed at it, you need to use it regularly and maintain the highest possible professional standards. And considering I already use a myriad of other forms of social media which drain my time and energy — while giving very little in return — the last thing I wanted was to add another one to the list.
But then I looked closer. I did my research. I found out as much as I could.
And it turns out that Patreon is a fairly reputable, accessible, and flexible service. It allows creators (including writers, musicians, photographers, videographers, artists, bloggers, and many others) to do what they love, offer benefits to their fans, and make at least a small amount of money in return.
For most people, it won’t be enough to cover every expense. In some cases, it may not even be enough to cover any expense. But it does at least provide the possibility of doing so, and thereby it offers the best chance many people have of doing what they love, making a difference in the world, and not living out of a cardboard box.
The Patreon Launch Arrives
So, in the absence of any better option for turning Mark All My Words into a sustainable long-term endeavor, I’m using Patreon.
To that end, I’ve put together a creator page on Patreon with a number of different features. First there’s the introduction, including a video and article. Then there are the tiers, or levels at which you can contribute. Then there are the goals, which explain what I aim to achieve through my campaign in concrete, tangible terms. Then there are the benefits themselves, including unreleased photos, exclusive videos, digital wallpapers, a thank-you webpage, signed prints, and more.
So without further ado, here’s the link to my Patreon page, where you can see it all for yourself.
Mark All My Words is an entirely non-profit venture that receives absolutely no money from advertising, sponsorships, corporations, or government. As such, the only money keeping it afloat comes from patrons and fans like you, who want to ensure that original nature photojournalism has a place on the internet in the future.
At present, however, the amount of money coming into this site amounts to $0.22/hour — which is roughly 3% of the minimum wage. So if you believe that hard-working professionals deserve to be paid more than starvation wages for their work, please head over to the Patreon campaign for Mark All My Words and become a patron today.
If you’re not in a position to contribute financially, however, the next best thing you can do is to share this article on social media by using the share buttons below. And to those of you who’ve done either of the above, thank you.