Between yesterday afternoon and this morning, three people tweeted me about Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on The Art of Asking.

I hadn’t seen it (it was, I just noticed, only posted yesterday), but I just watched it, and I urge you to set aside fourteen minutes of uninterruptible time to watch it, too. Because she says things like this:

“When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”

She hits on points I only had the awareness to skirt around in my last post.


That it’s not shameful to ask. That to look another human being in the eye and accept their money for your creations is not only intimate and difficult, but fair.

It’s the fairness of it that struck me as the most profound thing she spoke about. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence to accept that another person finds your work valuable. It takes the gumption to flout the expectation so many of us were raised with that humility is more desirable an expression than graceful acceptance of gratitude.

In my own mind, I know that what I write is valuable. But right there, I was inclined to say, “even if it’s only valuable to me.” It is valuable to me, but to say that right now in this context is to peddle some serious false humility, because I also know that it’s valuable to other people. Not to everyone, but to some people. I know this because people tell me. And I know this because I do have the confidence to see the value of my work. I have the confidence to assume that for every one person who tells me they’ve benefited from something I’ve written or created or championed, there are a few others who say nothing.

Diane’s talk of meaningful exchanges is about exactly this, I think.

When someone tells me I’ve touched them or pushed them or challenged them or entertained them, I need to do a much better job of saying, “Thank you. Please tell me more about where you’re coming from.” I need to stop what I’m doing and take a good look at this person who is taking a moment to share their gratitude, and I need not only to accept that gratitude, but to really see them. And if or when they take a workshop from me, or attend a talk I give, or buy my book, I need to know that the money I receive from them is a fair exchange for what they receive from me.

Thank you, Amanda Palmer, for clarifying what’s at the heart of making a living creatively.

And thank you, Donna Drachunas, Julianna Puccini and Laura Nelkin for alerting me to her talk.

7 responses to “Amanda Palmer on Asking (and on Seeing Each Other)”

  1. Em Star Avatar
    Em Star

    I teach English at several local colleges, and what students express to me most often as their greatest fear is the fear of failing. When we have group discussions about this, I often tell them about Mighty Ugly and it’s message. So, just to encourage you… :)

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      Thank you, Em! That’s encouraging, for sure.

      I’ve actually thought quite a bit about applying Mighty Ugly in some way in a college-classroom setting. I’m curious to hear more about how your students respond when you bring it up. Have you considered doing a full hands-on MU exercise with them? Please let me know if I could help in any way with this. A back-burner idea I’ve had for quite a long time is to develop materials specifically for this application.

      1. Em Star Avatar
        Em Star

        I have thought about it, actually–since I teach writing, it’s generally been in the form of writing a short paper without punctuation, grammar, etc, or including drawings or something like that that is normally frowned on in academia. I haven’t put too much thought into it yet, but I think it might blow their minds a little!! It makes me sad that they think if they get a C they’re letting their parents and friends and family down and are simultaneously destroying their futures. When I think of college I think of it as a time to experiment and figure out what you like and what you hate, and if that means a few Cs in the process, so be it, but in our business driven, cost effective culture, few of my students see it that way. If you ever want to toss ideas around or anything, feel free to email me!

  2. Heather Ordover Avatar

    Thank you, Kim, for talking about this. You, Sister Diane, Amanda Palmer—a lot of us are finding the same sticky wicket all at the same time. I really appreciate you talking about it as I embark on a new adventure of my own. It’s made me realize what I do—and don’t—need to do moving forward.
    Remember—sometimes those crickets just mean you hit an important point that we have to sit with and think about for awhile. Your thoughtful posts demand thought from us in return… and thought is often quiet.

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      Thanks, Heather. I usually don’t feel discouraged when I hear crickets; I, too, often need to ponder things quietly – and I often do so far beyond the lifespan of my urge to reply.

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