by - Monday, December 29, 2014

Title: The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
Author: Amanda Palmer
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover 
Source: Personal purchase


Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn't alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.

My thoughts:

Growing up, "you must stand on your own two feet" was one of the sentences I heard the most from my family. Maybe that's why I'm the kind of person who sees asking for help as a last resort. Of course, nobody ever told me I shouldn't do it; I believe it's something I came up on my own. When I think more about it, I realize I'm afraid asking for help will make me look weak and good-for-nothing. Up until now (and still) I've always called my aunt when I came to the point of asking for help becuase there is nothing she cannot resolve, and if she can't, that means whatever it is cannot at all be resolved. In The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer threw all I knew about asking out the window, as if holding me from my shoulders and shaking me to my core, going, "stop it!" I've always liked Amanda Palmer, but even if I had no idea who she was, this book would've shaken me down just like it did.

If you do like her, you'll like her even more after reading The Art of Asking. If not, like I've said before, that's alright because she does actually introduce herself to you in the book. Deciding she'll be an artist instead of getting a job that's "normal" in the eyes of society and family, she starts off being a live statue in a wedding dress on the streets of Boston. She holds flowers. She stays still until someone drops a dollar in her hat. Then she moves. She looks them right in the eye, thanking them wordlessly by hanging them a flower from her bouquet. Like most artists, what she wants is obvious:

BELIEVE ME. I'm real.

Amanda Palmer is very, very different from me in another aspect as well: she actually likes being around people, connecting with them, sharing their joy and sorrow. She also observes them very well, gets to know them. She remembers so vividly the people from her live statue days that it leaves you in shock. This thing she does continues after she forms The Dresden Dolls; even now. She does it by connecting with her fans personally, one-on-one, by listening to their problems and staying at their homes. Even when she falls in love with Neil Gaiman, who isn't as open as her about anything, she finds a way to open him to the world as well: they do and continue to do ninja gigs and ninja readings together.

The difference between asking and begging

Amanda Palmer is a woman who stood up very publicly to her record label. Those who only have seen the news here and there will think she dumped them because they thought she looked fat in a video, but that's just part of it. While the record label is only worried about what they can sell and how much money they can make, Amanda is okay with having a group of closeknit people. She wants to continue to get to know everyone, be a family. When she dumps the label, the family she created embraces her: they support her Kickstarter project to the end. There are people who applaud her for the success of the project as well as people who call her names, one of them being "beggar." Yet, what she does is not begging: as someone who supported her Kickstarter project, I know that much. Why? Because I would've bought her album anyway. I believe in her art. So I had no problem giving the money away in advance, and I gave whatever I could afford, not what a record company wanted to charge me for it. 20 bucks got me her music, an autographed note and a couple of stickers and pins. Consider me a very happy, satisfied fan!

This really is the difference between asking and begging. First of all, Amanda isn't all whiny and small when she's asking for money. She's like, "I'm gonna do a record, don't have enough money for it, so spot me some, please?" And in return, you get art as well as a whole bunch of stuff ranging from posters to teapots to home parties. Yes, home parties! When we give money to beggars, we hope they use it for food, but we have no clue where it's going. But when somebody asks you for it, you know why and how they will use it. And you also see the results. 

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