Lena Dunham Has Money Problems Too: Miranda July’s Email Project Begins

July 2, 2013 | Marie Calloway

The first email from Miranda July’s We Think Alone project was sent out yesterday. For the next 19 Mondays, subscribers will be blasted with private emails from Lena Dunham, Kirsten Dunst, writers, artists and her other friends. The first Monday’s topic was money.

“I have always loved reading other people’s emails,” July told the Huffington Post. “There is something about the mundane-ness that feels very intimate to me.” Let’s see what what intimate things we can learn about Miranda July’s friends.

“I have less than $1,000 in the bank and no credit card debt and no savings,” Canadian writer Sheila Heti emails. She talks about how much she was paid for the foreign rights of one of her books — $7,000 — and how that’s not enough, about her friend’s difficulty publishing a book that was “controversial” enough to make publishers weary of the said “controversy” cutting into profits, and about pitching a story to Glamour while working as a temp and renting out space in her apartment to make money and loathing it all.

There are various emails discussing creative project costs, requests for refunds, jobs inquires… Even Lena Dunham posts a receipt of a couch that would cost her over $24,000 (!!!) until she “decided it’s just too expensive :).”

Aside from the $24,000 couch, these emails offer some practical insights to people in creative fields. Maybe it’s a call for those people to discuss how they support themselves frankly.

Last year, author Emily Gould expressed a need for this conversation, wrote about spending her 200K advance from her first book — well, the actual, much smaller figure after her agent’s cut and taxes — and blogged about artists paying each other for their projects. Artist Molly Crabapple wrote that about the importance of being financially stable to create her best art work and discussed privilege and meritocracy, concluding that “not talking about money is a tool of class war.”

Interestingly, in an essay titled “On the Subject of Artists Talking About Art”, Sheila Heti herself referenced the trend: “I think it’s the wholesale infiltration of concerns about money and commerce into art that leads to art’s withering on the vine, not direct and serious conversation about how to make art now. Stop talking about Amazon, for godssakes! For one minute!” Elsewhere, when talking about her Toronto art scene she said that talking about money would mean “taking time away from what is more important and more vital, and which should be at the core of what we’re doing, and which we want to be doing better.”

Wait. So, do creative people advocate or abhor addressing their relative money issues? Perhaps, the next set of emails in July’s art project will be more arts focused.