Asking for help doesn’t come natural to me. Even among friends and family, I’d rather grit my teeth and bear the weight alone instead of (in my mind) burdening others with my troubles.
Before . . .
Found a leaky faucet? I wrestled with the knobs and spout ’til I had no choice but to tell my parents.
Assigned utensils for a group cook-off? I also supplied the ingredients and extra serving ware “just in case.”
Needed an activity to supplement tomorrow’s class lesson? I conjured icebreakers from scratch while stitching together graphics, matching fonts, and writing (and rewriting) questions for the perfect assignment.
Whatever the situation, asking was hard. Asking didn’t exist to me.
My mind is set to give, give, give. I’d receive gifts as graciously as I could, but asking for anything—no way.
. . . Yet Now
A little more than a week ago, I had questions. Although I was doing meaningful work, I didn’t know if my ways of connecting—and reconnecting—with my community were truly authentic. Was I doing it all wrong? How would I know? And . . . Could I ask people to look beyond the art to see me in my work?
So I figured it was time to climb into what Lucy Flint and her sister call the Brené Brown rabbit hole. Brené’s research dives deep into the power behind vulnerability, the root of authenticity, and the shame that gets in the way. But when I typed her name into the Audible search, another book caught my attention.
On the cover, with eyes cast heavenward, Amanda Palmer held a flower to her chest painted with the title of her book—The Art of Asking.
Intrigued, I purchased it. And once I started listening, I knew the universe had answered.
In The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer shows us the importance not only of the art but also in the act. Through her journey touring with The Dresden Dolls, “Bride-ing” as a human statue, crowdsourcing, and marrying Neil Gaiman, two concepts repeatedly surface.
Asking is connection.
Amanda talks about how artists cast a net by sharing their art and reaching out to their audience, to their people. Then by building relationships with those who are drawn to the net, they exchange moments of vulnerability, tightening the net.
Connection “works best when everybody feels seen.” A simple hello, a reply to an email, tweeting back, commenting on how a person’s post left you speechless with awe. Caring about the person. These moments count. As creatives, we not only have unique resources to allow others to feel seen but also can let others see us.
Asking is reciprocity.
Simply put: “Some days it’s your turn to ask. Some days it’s your turn to be asked.” By not asking, we stop the cycle, we plug the river from refreshing the surrounding land.
Our art is the gift. As catalysts, we creatives have the power to keep it in circulation. Novels, movies, albums, portfolios. Aside from the material we create just for ourselves or the pieces we reserve for certain audiences, when we have a message to share with the world, we must share it!
Amanda cites Lewis Hyde, who perfectly illustrates this concept in The Gift:
The Indian giver (or the original one, at any rate) understood a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept . . . The only essential is this: The gift must always move.
In return, we can ask without guilt or fear.
. . . especially when we ask
- With the global community in mind. Use our gifts to affect the planet for the better, to pass the good forward.
- With the right intentions. Know what you’re asking and from whom you’re asking it. Acknowledge your relationship, show you value them and want to add value into their lives, directly or indirectly.
- With grace and an open heart. “Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability. Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing: I deserve to ask and You are welcome to say no.” Asking is an opening; allow those who want to help to do so and thank them, but also let those who say no to go on their way.
All the Magic
The beauty behind this book (in addition to Amanda’s storytelling, of course) is multilayered. Because I loved her message and wanted to absorb as much as I could, I read both the audiobook and the ebook. What I enjoyed most about the audiobook:
- Amanda’s tone. She spoke like we were having a conversation. Plus, if she hadn’t mentioned her band, I would’ve never guessed she was a rockstar.
- The songs. They’re sprinkled throughout the chapters and definitely add a road-trip-with-friends vibe to the entire experience. My favorite track in the book is “The Bed Song” on 9:22:49 or 31:53 in Chapter 7. Must. Listen!
Then from the ebook, I loved these features:
- Photographs. From Bride-ing to playing the ukulele and even to time spent with fans. So much life.
- Song lyrics. Reading the words, seeing how they relate to each another on the page, apart from listening to the song itself gives another layer of interpretation. My favorite’s on page 269, “The Ukulele Anthem.”
- Additional entries. The postscript from Maria Popova of Brain Pickings gives us more insight on human connection, and the note along with acknowledgements from the author gives us more perspective into Amanda’s world.
If nothing else . . .
Remember that it’s okay to ask with the good of the global community in mind, with the right intentions, and with grace and an open heart. Asking is the most vulnerable human connection we can share and is part of a beautiful cycle built on authenticity. Through The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer leads us to the pulse of humanity using snapshots of her life.
If you found value in this article, please share with a fellow creative. Who knows, they may need it more than you could imagine. And if you’d like to find other ways to support the creative behind Hint of Jam, definitely take a look at the Support & Donate page.
But above all, your presence here is more than enough. You are amazing, lovely.
Do you plan on picking up a copy of The Art of Asking? If your answer is yes, comment with “Here, here!” below. Also, take a moment to talk about a book that positively impacted your life. Let’s exchange recommendations for our reading lists!