This is a new series where I write about the people that inspire me to be more creative every day: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a better place. I’ve also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, and Lisa Congdon.
Who is Amanda Palmer?
A musician that got her start performing in the punk-cabaret band the Dresden Dolls and is still touring. She became famous outside of her music circles when she launched a very successful (well over $1 million) Kickstarter campaign to fund her album and tour. Some people thought it was great that she was ditching the label model and connecting directly with her fans, some people thought she was misusing the platform and didn’t deserve to get so much money. She has since done a TedTalk and written a book, both called The Art of Asking, about how and why she decided to take such a drastically different approach. She is married to fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman – another one of my creative role models.
What’s so great about her?
The first time I saw her perform was at Edinburgh Festival 6 years ago. She rocked out Rhianna’s Umbrella song on a ukulele (it was the first time I had heard the song) wearing a corset and fish nets, surrounded by white-faced dancers with umbrellas writhing in and around the audience. It was mesmerizing. A day or two later we heard that she was putting together an impromptu show and inviting other performers to join her. This ‘Ninja gig’, as she calls them in her book, was a surreal experience – I remember Amanda playing her ukulele up on the bar and then just hanging out afterwards like a totally normal person. This is how she operates – she parties with her fans, she collaborates with them, she invites them to get up on stage and perform with her.
How has she inspired me?
I’ve always appreciated her honesty and openness. First in her music, then in her Twitter feed, her blog, and now her book. Yes she is controversial. But it’s clear to me that she has a huge heart and really does want to make things better in the world any way that she can. She is overflowing with love and empathy, with a desire to connect, to be “seen” (which, as she explains in her book, is different than being “looked at”). However misguided her attempts to reach these goals may seem to some, to me they seem genuine and heartfelt. To me, this is the role of an artist. To be honest and open and to connect with other people. In this respect she succeeds spectacularly.
What does she do that’s different than others?
Everything. She’s loud and opinionated. She started her career as a street performer and hasn’t done much that’s conventional since then. She pushes a lot of buttons. But I think that she can also teach us a lot about trusting each other, about communicating with each other, about working together, and about asking for help. Don’t be fooled by her often-naked, always wild appearance or by what the critics say: this woman has some wise things to say. I’ve already talked about her book but if you haven’t read it, you should. And get the audio version because she reads it and it’s fantastic.
All from her book, The Art of Asking:
“Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with—rather than in competition with—the world. Asking for help with shame says: You have the power over me. Asking with condescension says: I have the power over you. But asking for help with gratitude says: We have the power to help each other.”
“When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.”
“The Fraud Police are the imaginary, terrifying force of ‘real’ grown-ups who you believe – at some subconscious level – are going to come knocking on your door in the middle of the night, saying:
We’ve been watching you, and we have evidence that you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING. You stand accused of the crime of completely winging it, you are guilty of making shit up as you go along, you do not actually deserve your job, we are taking everything away and we are TELLING EVERYBODY.”
“Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing.”