A friend recently asked me where this adventure would take me next.
The answer? DONUTS.
I’ve been making my way through Amanda Palmer’
s recent release, The Art of Asking.
For those who aren’t familiar with AFP:
She’s an artist whose family is from affluent Lexington, Massachusetts. She’s married to my modern literary fave, Neil Gaiman. As a student, one day she realized she wanted her “real job” to be an artist so she cut back her hours scooping ice-cream and became a statue. You know the ones – people who paint themselves one color then stand very still until you give them a tip? Yup. That was her art. She moved into an artist apartment and started a band (she had played piano her whole life) and became kind of famous
! She hated being famous, though – the record companies kept telling her to stop talking to her fans. They kept telling her she had to dress a certain way and had to play her music a certain way. They even told her she was fat and that they’d have to edit her first music video to hide it. So, she quit them. In order to keep making her records, she started giving away her art for free. She sold burned copies of her CDs for $5. Stayed after her shows for hours signing autographs and talking with her fans. She started an email list and responded to people who emailed her. She put her songs available for “pay what you like” on her blog
. She became very active on Facebook. And on Twitter. She throws house parties for free at fans’ homes. She has randomly scheduled pillow fights before her shows.
What is Amanda Palmer most famous for, though? Asking fans to pay for her to make a record. And they did it. She had a goal of raising $100,000. Fans contributed $1,192,793.
Yup, almost $1.2 million dollars more than she asked for. Since this successful campaign, AFP has continued making music, continued hooking fans up with free tickets, continued being a social media queen. She even went on to do a TED
to discuss her story and the success of making art and letting people pay what they want for it – even if it’s nothing.
In her book, AFP elaborates on this success. She talks about artists often worrying that they’ll be seen as frauds by the “Fraud Police” because their art is weird. Or maybe the artist thinks no one wants to pay for their creation – how can they be legit if no one wants to give them money? Her advice to those who fear such rejection? Take the donuts. She explains that even Thoreau – known for living in a tiny hand-made cabin next to a pond for years – had his mom bring him donuts and pastries on Sundays. AFP asks the reader to consider whether Thoreau would be considered a “poser” today if he accomplished the same mission and was given donuts by his mom.
I’m obsessed with this idea. Be you. Let people help you be you. Let people give you donuts. Recently I had a chat with a friend about how sometimes I feel like a fake because my circle of friends is extremely creative – musicians, artists, librarians, authors, video game designers – and I am not. He told me that, though I feel like a fake – ahem, fraud – I am not. The others see me as creative, too. Me? Really? I was (and am!) flattered and hope I can continue with my artsy projects* so I feel less like a fraud. I’ll probably keep my day job and take a pass on becoming a statue, but I will most definitely continue writing. I’m going to keep Pining dorky things on Pinterest. I’m going to keep sending unicorn memes to my friend.
Now, who’s up for donuts?
*Disclosure Statement: My husband is probably laughing as he reads this because I have 45,395 hobbies. I sometimes paint, I sometimes play guitar, I sometimes take photographs, I read a lot, I try to write a lot. And by sometimes I mean rarely. And by rarely I mean I need to practice playing my guitar. Right now.
Taking the donuts is hard for a lot of people.
It’s not the act of taking that’s so difficult, it’s more the fear of what other people are going to think when they see us slaving away at our manuscript about the pure transcendence of nature and the importance of self-reliance and simplicity. While munching on someone else’s donut.
Maybe it comes back to that same old issue: we just can’t see what we do as important enough to merit the help, the love.
Try to picture getting angry at Einstein devouring a donut brought to him by his assistant, while he sat slaving on the theory of relativity. Try to picture getting angry at Florence Nightingale for snacking on a donut while taking a break from tirelessly helping the sick.
To the artists, creators, scientists, non-profit-runners, librarians, strange-thinkers, start-uppers and inventors, to all people everywhere who are afraid to accept the help, in whatever form it’s appearing,
Please, take the donuts.
To the guy in my opening band who was too ashamed to go out into the crowd and accept money for his band,
Take the donuts.
To the girl who spent her twenties as a street performer and stripper living on less than $700 a month who went on to marry a best-selling author who she loves, unquestioningly, but even that massive love can’t break her unwillingness to accept his financial help, please….
Just take the fucking donuts.