For someone who used to intensely hate to read fiction, I seem to reading a whole lot of it recently. I blame my book club and their desire to drag me kicking and screaming from my safe haven filled with vampires, witches, werewolves and other paranormal entities. Jerks. Just kidding, ladies, I love you all dearly.
The whole non-fiction thing has gotten so out of control that this past weekend I picked up a memoir that wasn’t. even. a. book. club. read. I KNOW. Insanity.
In my defense, a few girlfriends and I are currently brainstorming a new business venture and so I stocked up on relevant reading material. Because that I do enjoy doing. I don’t always read the resource materials that I buy, but I dove into The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer without too much hesitation. Because Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman and she oozes cool and I wanted to feel a little bit like a bad ass this weekend too. And it’s a well known thing that women have trouble asking for, well, anything, and I thought I could use a few pointers.
Also because the last book my book club read was Megyn Kelly’s book Settle for More and I needed to, ahem,
bleach my eyes cleanse my palate. I kid. I kid. It wasn’t that bad. But I’ll get more to why I struggled with it in a moment.
So there I was, on my deck, freezing my buns off because I refuse to admit that it’s not yet warm enough for alfresco weekend breakfasting, so engrossed that I had to text my daughter to bring me a pencil so I could jot down some thoughts and notes. Also, maybe because I was frozen to the chair. Or because I’m lazy. Whatever, stop judging me.
The long and short of it is that Amanda Palmer is a totally unconventional artist who seems to be a social media marketing savant. She figured out the importance of email lists before email was even a thing, understood the power of connecting with people through Twitter before most people even knew what you could talk in 140 character soundbites, and was the first artist to raise a 7 figure sum on Kickstarter. In a month. After having asked for a mere $100,000.
She’s basically my hero.
Not because she’s a successful marketer, but because she gets it. She gets that social media isn’t about screaming into the void, hoping that someone notices and reacts, but that it’s about building relationships, one post or tweet at a time.
But she’s not even doing it because building relationships is important for her business. She does all of it—the music, the tweeting, the blogging, the concerts and home parties, the Kickstarting—because the relationships and the people in them are critical to her and her well-being.
I sat there after finishing the book and I thought “huh. Right, it’s about the art, it’s about sharing the words and connecting with people. It’s not about making money from it all.”
I think I might have forgotten along the way.
I haven’t really worked on the book-in-progress because the first one hasn’t really been financially successful enough to justify the hours it would take to write the next one.
But that’s not the point, right? I should probably remember that.
The other thing that struck me once I was done reading was how very honest and real the book felt. After spending hours reading chapter after chapter, I felt like I had spent the whole weekend chatting one-on-one with Amanda. I felt that way after reading Shonda Rhime’s Year of Yes book too. And I finally realized that Megyn Kelly’s book had irked me so much because she keeps her readers at a very safe distance, never allowing herself to be genuinely vulnerable, which makes it hard to relate with her on pretty much any level.
So, to recap, make art just for the sake of sharing art and don’t be afraid to embrace genuine, authentic vulnerability if you want to be relatable and allow people to feel connected to you.
What I didn’t learn was the art of asking. But I think it’s because the issue isn’t really about asking, or even knowing what to ask for (which is a whole other question). It’s about creating a life where you can ask and know that people will respond. If you put yourself out there in a genuine way, share of yourself unconditionally, whatever that means in your life, people will return it tenfold.
Or, as Amanda’s mentor says it “If you love people enough, they’ll give you everything,” something that basically applies whether you’re talking about friendship, patronage, or even marketing.
As for actually asking for anything? Well, whenever I hesitate, I’m going to think of Amanda, standing on stage, asking the audience if anyone has a couch for her and her crew to crash on, and I’ll try to remember that if you never ask, the answer is always going to be no.