I wanted to discuss a book which I read the other day. I had been dying to read this, but it took a while before I finally got my hands on it. The book is called The Art of Asking by singer/songwriter/generally interesting peson Amanda Palmer. I had been following her on social media for quite a while already, when she released her TED talk to the world and I was intrigued.
I never asked anyone for anything when I was younger. Hell, even now I still find it hard to ask people for help. I grew up learning that I should find my own way in the world and that most of the time, you have to deal with things on your own. That makes you tough right? That teaches you to be self-sufficient right? Maybe. But nobody can do everything alone and by reading this book I found out that there is no shame in asking others to help you. In fact, it creates a lasting relationship. A partnership and sense of community.
Asking for help with shame says: You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says: I have the power over you.
But asking with gratitude says: We have the power to help each other.
(The Art Of Asking, Amanda Palmer)
It’s easier to help than to ask for help
Looking at myself, I find it a great honour if people ask me to help them, whether it be to help them move house or whether they are starting a music project and need a dollar to get started. If I believe in the project or the artist, I will help. If I find that I have a connection with somebody, I help. And often it is so much easier to help than to ask for help. For a long time I did not consider myself a writer or an artist. After all, I have not yet published a book and am still working on it.
It took me a long time to say: “I write so I create. I am an artist.” Despite the fact that I also have a day-job to make ends meet, I now see myself as an artist. And I try to communicate with the people who want to read what I write every day via social media and I will do so even more now. I hope that when the time comes and I am ready to show the world the fruits of my labour, I hope I can too ask them to help me. Give and receive. Receive and give. It is a constant cycle.
Yet one of the most important things I learned from reading this book is that not everybody wants to be watched, but everybody wants to be seen. When I read it, I was amazed by how simple yet true it was. Even those who stay in the background, and those who are lonely or very present, everybody wants to be seen. Everybody wants to feel that connection with another human. Everybody wants to have that silent conversation.
I see you.
Do you see me too?
Grow and let others grow
As a teenager I felt like nobody understood me. I was not living up to all the abilities and talents I possessed. I just existed. Until I was assigned a teacher who sat me down and by talking to me, by looking into my eyes and just smiling, he told me: I see you. I thrived. I picked up writing again. I was top of the class. It took one person to acknowledge me for me to become the best I could be.
As he got terminally ill, I sent him an email long after I had left that school. I thanked him for everything. He told me I did everything all by myself. He only listened. That was enough. This book reminded me how important that was. So now, as a teacher, my aim is to see my pupils. As a writer, my aim is to see the world and see those who are in it. Grow and let others grow.
This book is an absolute must-read for artists who try to build their community but also for people who just want to read a moving story and learn something in the meantime. Amanda, if you read this, thank you for sharing your story and inspiring me. To everybody else, read it as soon as you can.