At the beginning of this year, we had the opportunity to publish a piece by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah about Electric Lady Studios in our first relaunched issue of The Believer. It’s an incredible piece of writing about a legendary space, an homage and a eulogy and a celebration and an act of cultural criticism all in one. It encompasses personal history and national history and race and politics and art and money and spirituality. It is exactly the kind of essay The Believer was founded in 2003 in order to publish, and yet The Believer almost wasn’t here to publish it.
A couple of years ago, when The Believer was a decade old, we had a moment when we realized: it would be easier to stop doing this every month. We’d never thought this way before, and obviously most artists and writers and arts facilitators try hard never to think this way. Because it is always easier to not write the book or not write the song or not produce the album or not publish the magazine. It can be a struggle to make it in the arts. It can be hard to “make rent” in both the metaphorical and less metaphorical meanings of the term. Making rent can begin to feel like a gargantuan undertaking, like making a person from scratch, or making a peace accord. Making rent, over the years, can tire a human out.
That we allowed ourselves to think this way at all—that it would be easier to not—was because we felt that The Believer could be proud of what it had accomplished. Over the years we had seen countless young writers flow through our pages and then on to bigger, better-paying gigs. They write for all kinds of famous periodicals, and they get book deals based on essays they wrote for us—rent-paying book deals. We felt our existence was justified if we helped young, untested writers and artists and filmmakers through the tenuous foothold years and gave them a springboard opportunity to become self-sufficient creators. We’d done our work, for ten years we’d done it, and now we could retire.
However, we realized The Believer had nothing to do with us, the founders, any longer. It had become its own institution—and an institution that’s just as vital as it was when we first created it. After all, artists and writers will always at one point in their lives be twenty and unknown, or they will be dead and forgotten and requiring a reboot in the cultural consciousness, or they will be older and alive, and writing experimental work that no one else will publish.
So instead of shutting our doors, we’ve reinvented The Believer as a bimonthly magazine with more space for ambitious, unique, and innovative work from writers and artists at every stage in their careers and from all around the world. In 2016, we’ll be bringing you new work by Lydia Davis and Ben Mauk and Lena Dunham, Karen Tongson and Katrina Dodson and Kima Jones, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi and Sarah Marshall and Sandi Rankaduwa. We’ll have reporting from Berlin and Northeast India, Guyana and Vietnam, the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest and the wilds of Florida. We’ll have interviews with philosophers and writers, painters and gurus, actors and comedians. We’re redesigning our website to make our articles more pleasant to read on screens and thirteen years’ worth of work easier to find. We can’t wait to share it all with you.
But to keep this work alive, to continue empowering the writers and artists that make The Believer what it is, your support is essential. Without the financial reinforcement of our readers, none of this is possible. If you believe in the value of this magazine, we ask you to contribute what you can. It will make a difference.
We feel humbled to have touched, even briefly, the work of writers we know will go on to become institutions in their own rights. We are a conduit. We remain a conduit. Most importantly, we are here.
Thank you for being here with us.
By donating today, you can help The Believer continue to publish ambitious, unique, and innovative work from writers and artists at every stage in their careers, from all around the world.