Oh Shit! This Very Well Might Work
I don’t know what I expected with the launch of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. I tried not to have expectations, because that is a sure-fire recipe for disappointment. But it’s impossible not to have expectations about something that’s so important to you. There was part of me that thought I’d be lucky if a couple of hundreds dollars trickled in over a month or so from people motivated overwhelmingly by pity.
I was pleasantly surprised to the point of being completely overwhelmed the response the Patreon and the website got. But with that excitement and feverish anticipation came a new sense obligation. That first day it became apparent that donors weren’t contributing to Nathan Rabin’ Happy Place out of well-placed, richly merited sympathy for a dude who’s gotten his skull kicked a bit, professionally speaking. No, Patreon donors were donating money because they think Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place has the potential to be something special, something unique, something rare and valuable in this corrupt. It turns out that at least some folks are interested in the perspective and vision of a weird old dude.
But with the early success of the Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place came something unexpected. As soon as it attained some success in terms of funding and recognition and even page-views, I was immediately swept with an intense, uncomfortable feeling: I wanted very much for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place to be popular. And I wanted it to be popular right away.
On some level, that impulse is understandable. In a capitalist society, we have a clear cut way of keeping score: money and power. Over the course of my career, I have never sought power, feeling I was both unworthy and incapable of wielding it, and because of that my career has been defined by a certain persistent level of powerlessness. At one point my previous two employers purely and directly reflected my vision, sensibility and personality. Then things changed so dramatically that I was left with a profound skepticism about the entirety of pop culture media. It seems like such an ugly, rigged game that the only way to maintain your dignity is to opt out entirely. It did not feel like there was place for me in this world I used to inhabit anymore, so I had to build a home of my own, and invite the people who love me and love what I do to join me there.
That’s what I’m trying to do with Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place: opt out of a rigged, dehumanizing game and try to build something modest but pure and substantive and sustainable. And that’s great. But ambition is a tricky, deceptive beast. It can only be held off for so long, and I fear that when the donations stop coming in and things plateau, I’m going to panic and the passion and belief that is motivating my writing and my career now will be replaced by clammy desperation.
But right now Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place is pure. I’m not sure whether money and power would change that or preserve it, and, to be brutally honest, I wouldn’t mind finding out.
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