On Getting a Kick in the Pants, or What I Have in Common With the New York Times

April 25th, 2011 | Meera

I’m not sure if it’s a cultural artifact so much as a pathological personality trait, but—like many of you, probably—I like asking for things about as much as I like sudden attacks of indigestion. I don’t know why, since I get asked for things all the time and it never makes me think ill of the people who ask me; still, for whatever reason, it’s a hard thing to do.

I say this to preface the biggest act of asking I have ever committed.

What you see above is a video I made for a Kickstarter project. In case you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, I’ll explain that it’s a website that people can use to raise money for creative projects of any stripe. You set a funding goal and a time frame, describe what you want to do, and create what Kickstarter calls “rewards” that people who pledge money to your project will receive. If you meet your goal in time, Kickstarter sends you all the pledges (and a project can keep raising money past its goal until the predetermined end-date). If you don’t, no one is charged.

As you’ll see in the video, what I’m asking for is a small amount of financial support for a little book of essays that I’d like to write while I’m in Sweden for two months this summer. I’m going there to volunteer as a field assistant at a bird observatory. In between the lake and the mountains I think I’ll find more peaceful writing time than I’ve ever had in my life, even though I’ll be working hard every day.

The book will be called The Language of the Birds, and it’ll be about all sorts of things—science, nature, myth, stories, what I see and hear around me at the observatory. It’ll be a lot like what I write here on this site, in fact. Which is why, like the New York Times, I know I may rub some people the wrong way with this request. No one likes to pay for things they’re already getting for free.

If you feel that way, I totally understand. In fact, I’ll tell you right up front, because I was not born for sales, that even if I don’t get funding, I’ll still write the book. It just might not take physical form, and I won’t be able to print broadsides using excerpts. (A broadside is a kind of old-fashioned means of publishing text—often poetry or literature—decoratively, on poster-sized pieces of paper.)

I decided to start a Kickstarter project because the site has been on my radar for about a year now, and whenever I look at it I find amazing, beautiful, brave, funny, exciting projects. They make me happy. I’ve pledged money to four so far, only two of which were started by people I actually know. (You can see the projects I’ve funded here. Two of them are still raising money. See if you’re interested in them, too!)

Since I—like many of us—don’t have a lot of disposable income to throw around, I’ve never pledged a large sum of money to any one project. But each time I’m glad to know my contribution helped someone make something cool. And while in the 14.5 hours my Kickstarter project has been live I’ve already become indebted to a few very generous friends (Thank you, you guys. You make my heart swell.), what I hope and expect is for the funding to happen through lots of small donations.

There’s more about my plans, including where the money will go, on the project page. And thank you—no matter what happens. If you’re reading this, you’re already making what I do here worthwhile.

Edited to add: As of about 3pm this afternoon, less than 24 hours after I launched the project page, you guys have fully funded my little book. I am beyond pleased; I am totally bowled over. You could not bowl me more over if you tried. Since there are still 29 days of funding left, I’m going to think about what I might be able to do if we hit another, slightly higher target. I’ll update the project page when I come up with something brilliant. And once again, thank all of you so much for your encouragement.

3 Responses to “On Getting a Kick in the Pants, or What I Have in Common With the New York Times”

  1. Chuck Metz says:

    So glad to see you doing this…

  2. […] of you may remember that last year I started a Kickstarter project to help me publish a little book about my time as a volunteer in Sweden at Lake Ånnsjön Bird […]