The life around me.

05/21/00: "Because you're the only one stupid enough to do it," said Jane this past Friday when I asked her why someone else couldn't be in charge.

Yea, well in some people's eyes I might be stupid and a fool, but I believe in the purpose, and I see the results of this grueling work 200 years from now making the gay & lesbian issue a non-issue throughout southern society. You want to call that stupid, that's fine with me.

The point of this journal entry is to bring to my own eyes and everyone else's just what is happening in this community, regarding Timeless Voices.

It costs at a minimum $750 to publish and distribute the 2000 copies every quarter. The ads we get each time just barely come close to that, with many issues being covered out of mine and Michelle's pockets over the last two years. But we both believed in the power of the paper to reach gays and lesbians in rural areas to assure them they are not alone within their own communities, and we felt it had enormous potential to educate quite frankly the bigots who tend to discriminate based on false stereotypes. I still believe in the potential of this paper to achieve those goals.

We have a subscription list about 600 names long, the majority of whom requested to be added. The rest of the papers are distributed in bulk quantities at places where it can be picked up by anyone with an interest, like Colors on Cherry downtown, or Wild Iris Books in Gainesville, FL and several places in between.

As with any new endeavor, it takes time and integrity to build a reputation and a following. I believe the content of the paper is consistently high-quality, and has grown into a comfortable read since its awkward beginning, born from the hearts of two people with a strong passion but no experience. Copies of this paper have been around the world in our efforts to attract attention from those who also believe in its purpose, those willing to help fund such an endeavor.

Well, finally we get a few tickles here and there from the big corporate types who recognize that their target audience includes gays and lesbians in rural areas. A handful of responses from national-level advertisers reads something like this:

"We might be interested in advertising in Timeless Voices. Please send us your press kit, and make sure you include readership demographics and distribution."

It's no longer sufficient to send a letter of reply stating "we have a distribution of over 2000 copies each quarter." They want to know particulars about our readership, like how many are employed in the teaching profession and how many of them own cats.

In an attempt to collect this data so that I could respond with a more comprehensive media kit, I printed a reader survey in the last issue of the paper and explained briefly why you should fill it out and return it. Then I put a big plug for the survey on the front page, to get people's attention. THEN, to make SURE people responded, I begged readers to fill it out and mail it in at the beginning of my editorial.

I've gotten used to the concept that you have to give something in return for people's efforts no matter how trivial the actions may seem, so I even committed Timeless Voices to give away prizes randomly to people who took the time to send in the completed survey (if they won't do it just for the sake of doing it, maybe if they think they'll be rewarded they'll do it).

1000 copies of the latest issue were printed, and about 950 of them were distributed during the first week in April. Based on the results of this survey, I'm pleased to be able to tell Budweiser that 10 people read this paper, "your advertisements will reach TEN people."

Ten responses to that survey are all that have been returned. Sobering fact, indeed, to realize that the regular advertisers are throwing money away with each issue, because only 10 people will see their ads.

This is when I sit back and try to figure out what the hell I'm doing. This is not easy work, and it's not cheap. But I'm locked into a vision that only 10 other people seem to share, along with our current advertisers.

From experience, we learned that timing is critical when you're planning a festival. So this year we thought we did it right, and announced the basics for the festival in the January 2000 issue, and included sponsor/vendor/parade information. We also know from experience that queers don't commit to anything in advance, being the spontaneous group that they are. Still, we put the knowledge in front of them by the only means we have available: email, web announcements, and Timeless Voices.

This week I get a complaint from someone who had previously claimed to be a faithful reader of Timeless Voices, stating that they would LOVE to be involved in the mass commitment ceremony during the festival, but they are planning theirs for the following month, had they known about ours earlier.... well, like I said, we felt January was early enough.

I'm not so unrealistic to expect people to pay attention to every word ever uttered, and broadly I feel like it will take a pattern of many years of stable, solid achievement before it will actually become part of their lives. But let me ask you how many people have the stamina to work tirelessly, passionately devoted to a cause, plundering through a silent darkness, until it begins to take "root" and become recognized, and relied upon, and eventually sought out by those it is intended to benefit?

I am not such a strong person that 10 readers out of thousands in the target area can invigorate my passion to put this much into it for very much longer, and I'm fully aware that this was also a tremendous factor in Michelle's departure earlier this year.

I guess you can tell I'm planting the seeds to back off from this, but I don't need anybody's permission to just up and quit. I wake up everyday wishing I had a life outside of this "cause", and one of these days I will hear what Jane says and agree with her. I'm tired of being stupid.

..the end..