Asking and getting

There’s so much things I’m taking away from Amanda Palmer’s TED talk about asking. About how artists should be able to give and receive fearlessly. While I’m not a fan of her music, I am a fan of what she represents. And this quote from her talk speaks to me on so many levels:

[quote] My music career has been spent encountering people on the internet, like I was on the box. Blogging and tweeting, not about my tour dates and videos, but about our work and our art, about our fears and our hangovers and mistakes. And we see each other. And when we see each other, we want to help each other. [/quote]

So I googled a bit more about that part where people were unhappy about the whole hoopla of her post-Kickstarter campaign, where she asked other musicians to play or open her gigs – where she will give you free beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily (instead of money). And boy, were there lots of opinions on that.

So I dug some more. I found this blog post where she talks about her rationale behind her call, and this quote struck me the most:

[quote] You have to let artists make their own decisions about how they share their talent and time. Especially in this day and age, it’s becoming more and more essential that artists allow each other space to figure out their own systems. The minute YOU make black and white rules about how other artists should value their own art and time, you disempower them. [/quote]

And it’s so true.

There’s a lot of talk about how you should be paid every time you produce work for others. Sure, to a certain extent that is true – we all need to eat and all those Facebook “likes” and tweets don’t exactly fill our stomach. But as artists, there’s always a grey area that you need to decide for yourself whether doing something is worth it in the long run, even if the currency you’re paid in may not be the currency you need right now. I’ve gone against what others think of me – I’ve done work for free because I chose to, and I’m still reaping the rewards from that in so many ways that made me ask “where the heck did that come from?” a few times. I helped out because I genuinely wanted to, and I could spare the time, so I thought why not? And if blogging over the past 5 years have taught me anything, it’s that when you make connections and are generous with your time, ideas and spirit – trust that you’ll be rewarded in return.

But only if you ask.

Let me lay it out for you: if I’m not getting enough money from what I do, it’s my fault because I’m not putting myself out there enough. because I’m not asking or giving enough where it counts. Just because I’m not getting enough moolah from doing what I love, doesn’t mean that I will stop. I’m putting food on the table for myself through other avenues while I figure that out. I don’t – and never will – blame you, dear readers. It’s all on me.

More artists should realize that asking for money isn’t begging (it’s something I need to remind myself sometimes too)  – it’s about making it easy for others to pay you. Amanda got more than what she asked for because she asked for it.

And here’s what I think is missing from a lot of the comments flying out there: that Amanda put herself out there and did what was difficult for many people to do. She held out her hand when many others feel embarrassed about doing it. I believe she wants other people to stand up and do the same. To earn what’s theirs, and to not shy away from putting it out in the world.

Don’t care about what others think – ask for what you need. Hold out your hand.

Now, to demonstrate me walking the talk – and yes, it’s super scary because I’ve never done it before: here’s me holding out my virtual hand: if you like what I do, and if you feel that I’ve helped you in some way, perhaps you’d like to click that little button below and leave me a tip? Or alternatively, head over to the shop and pick something out for you or a friend if you haven’t already?

[UPDATE: Thanks so much to those who generously tipped my jar!]

(don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you don’t push that button!)


Share with me in the comments section: Have you ever asked for what you need? I’d love to hear if you did and how it went.

Read also: Why I’m not afraid to take your money by Amanda Palmer; and Why I’m Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman.

4 Replies to “Asking and getting”

  1. Lies Goemans says:

    Hi Amy, i know exactly what you are talking about. Amanda Palmer’s Ted talk was really inspiring to me too, but also left me puzzled. Can you really ask for money?

    Asking for help lots of people will respond but with money people are easily scared away. Why is that? Because in a way money is love and is power also you would think, so what’s the difference?

    I paint a mini-painting for free every morning for three years almost. on They go around the world every morning at 9.00 to make people happy and it works. It started out to help a sick friend to still see the little moments of beauty in every day. The first year the paintings were not even for sale. Since the second year they are.

    I love to do it, to paint them, i get a lot out of them as you described. Beautiful friendships and messages i received. And catching those moments for others makes me happy as well. It makes me paint every day so it’s also good for my skills. But hey it’s also a lot of work and you have to DO it EVERY day. People sometimes seem to forget that and just take it for granted. But i also never dared to ask for money i don’t even have a donatebutton on my blog.

    I’m really loving your work Amy and the way you help others to be visible. So i want to give you a big compliment for the way you made this new lovely land-Pikaland.

    I made you a donation, not a big one, 5 dollar, but if you put this button somewhere visible on your site i promise you, i come back to just donate again some other time. And i hope lot’s of other did this also or will do so in the future.

    Thanks for this post Amy and thanks for Pikaland
    have a great weekend!

    1. amy says:

      Hi Lies,
      You can ask for what you need and want as an artist. Amanda didn’t just ask for money. Sometimes she asked for a place to stay, sometimes it’s food; but they all have something in common: it’s what she needed. And we all need different things at different times – there’s no harm in trying, in asking for a little help; or perhaps a show of appreciation. Thanks so much for your kind words!

  2. Isa says:

    I think asking is brave, so I leave you a little tip for this 😉

    1. amy says:

      Thank you Isa! 🙂

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