Pause for thought: Reading Amanda Palmer

Today’s blog post isn’t directly about business or theatre, but it is about the mentality you need to be in the arts, and to be trying to create something lasting in the arts. Instead of working through another customer group profile, I’ve been reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer today, and it’s honestly brilliant.

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The Art of Asking, so far, is about generosity and trust, and how those two things can be linked to support the arts. It’s also about doubt, and overcoming doubt, which is something I’ve been struggling with this week.

Generosity and Trust

Amanda Palmer lives in a beautiful world, in which she can ask for a room to stay in, or a guitar, or $1000 and receive it pretty quickly from a legion of supporters. But the way she’s got to that isn’t magical, or impossible. It’s based on trust and generosity, and it goes both ways. She, as the asker, trusts that there are enough good people out there to help her, and people in return are generous with their spare resources. But equally, her fans trust that she will reward them with new songs, poems, art, and she is generous with her words and personality (and with her time, much of which is spent engaging with her fans). It’s a hard way to think, because cynicism is so natural and easy, but it can work.

It’s also what HiH is founded on – “Yes, and” culture means trusting people/artists to create work that they believe is valuable, and to not steal the kettle. But it also means asking people/artists to be generous, and to give what they can financially, and in-kind. Equally, HiH must be generous with what it has – space and cups of tea should be given away as much as possible, as must marketing expertise, shoulders to cry on and time. And artists/people will need to trust that we are doing our best to bring the performing arts to them, and that it isn’t somehow a con or trick.

Doubt (The Fraud Police)

There’s a lot of literature out there on Imposter Syndrome – go read it. Amanda Palmer refers to it as the Fraud Police – the sense that at some point, someone is going to show up and denounce you as a fake, not a real producer/actor/etc, only winging it. It’s the sense that the idea you truly, 100% believe in isn’t actually worthwhile, and maybe you should be quiet and settle for a Real Job instead. This is a really harmful and suffocating feeling! If you are experiencing this feeling, seek help! Get a friend to tell you that your idea/job/art is good, and worthy, and not something to be ashamed of. Get a bit of paper and list all the reasons why you aren’t a fraud. Listen to Amanda Palmer, a goddess on earth, talk about being a fraud, and realise that you aren’t, and she isn’t, and it’s totally reasonable to not know the answers to all of the questions all of the time. And then keep ploughing away at what you’re doing, and trusting, and giving, because it’s worthwhile and Proper.

In case you didn’t notice, Amanda Palmer is a particular inspiration of mine, and she earns money through her Patreon. If you can afford to give a little, do! Otherwise, here’s her twitter.

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