The crux of it is that she asked. But the shocking, three-part action is in how she asked. It’s why she fundraised $1.2 million dollars to record her album, why she made crowd-funding history, and why she was invited to give a Ted Talk (below).
I’m No Good at Asking
My mom always told me “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ask. Just ask. What’s the worst they can say?”
But I’ve never been good at asking. For me, I think it’s one half pride—wanting to do it all myself; and one half fear—I’ve been afraid of the answer to my mom’s question. Because the worst they can say is no. No is the rejection artists don’t want to hear. No hurts.
It hurts so much, in fact, that fear of rejection is often a hindrance in the pursuit of one’s true desires. What if I don’t get into the MFA program? What if my peers think my script sucks? What if no one gives money to fund my film?
In her Ted Talk, Amanda Palmer says, “It’s kind of counterintuitive for a lot of artists. They don’t want to ask for things. It’s not easy to ask. A lot of artists have a problem with this. Asking makes you vulnerable.”
But if you’re serious about growing and succeeding as an artist, it’s just a part of the territory.
I’ve been told no more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve been rejected from MFA programs and screenwriting competitions, been told I had a bad script, received form letters from dozens of agents.
I’ve actually never even attempted a crowd-funding campaign because such a large dose of no is absolutely frightening to me. …It’s enough to bear rejection from one person at a time.
But, as an indie-indie-indie filmmaker, I know it’s something I’ll have to do eventually. And watching Amanda Palmer talk about her experience really helped me.
I was able to take what she said and break it down into three shocking things that she did while asking—three things I’ve never done.
Amanda Palmer’s 3 Shocking Insights
1. “Ask without shame.”
This seems counterintuitive, because (as she mentions in her talk) asking can feel like begging. Especially when asking for money. And there’s shame in begging. But why does it feel like this? Don’t you deserve the money? Don’t you work hard as an artist? Amanda points out that there is an even exchange that happens in giving and receiving art. That exchange makes it fair, which means there is no shame for the artist.
2. “When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
So stop hiding. Remove the protective shell. Expose yourself. …WHAT??! you might be thinking, I’m vulnerable enough just by being an artist and asking for help! (Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing.) But Amanda took it a step further. She exposed herself both literally and figuratively. By couch surfing, crowd surfing, and allowing fans to draw on her naked body, she told people, here I am, I trust you. They could see her fully and could do whatever they pleased. They could drop her, kidnap her, steal from her…but what they did was help her.
As a personal anecdote for this one, I went couch surfing through Europe one summer for 30 days. I’ve never met more kind, open, and honest people in my life. …And I never imagined how that could apply to being an artist.
3. “People have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is how do we make people pay for [art]? What if we started asking, how do we LET people pay for [art]?”
It’s time to change the question. Change it from a make to a let. Recognize the value in what you offer, the value in your half of the exchange. You’re not forcing people to give you something, and you don’t own them anything for it. Rather, you are allowing them to contribute to what riches you are offering the world.