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.

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