The Fear of Asking

So. I entered a raffle to win tickets to see Amanda Palmer at the Paramount Theater in Austin. I’m not sure why I did it, except that I know that when someone or something disturbs me, that means I have something to learn. When I first heard Amanda “Fucking” Palmer’s TED talk, The Art of Asking, my initial reaction was one of … disquiet. I thought I didn’t like her. I thought, “She’s too brash, too – herself?”  That startled me. Can a person be too much of who they are? It’s taken some introspection to realize what makes me uncomfortable about Amanda Palmer is that her way of being challenges my way of being. I feel like there are certain immutable requirements governing how I need to be; for instance, and very trivially, I feel like it’s a requirement to shave my arm pits. It is a requirement to feel like my body is something that must be hidden because it’s not “perfect.” It’s a requirement to feel like I should bottle up my emotions or repackage them so as not to seem like a “bitch.” It’s a requirement to have a traditional job. It’s a requirement to keep my yard looking at least as nice as the neighbors. And on and on and on. Amanda Palmer throws away every single one of those “requirements,” except maybe the one about the yard. I don’t know if she has a yard. The point is that Amanda Palmer decides for herself how she’s going to live life, rather than letting society tell her how to be.

I didn’t dislike Amanda, but myself. Of course, it’s easier to blame her. It’s really scary to think that maybe all these requirements that guide and order my life are only optional. This doesn’t mean I want an open marriage (I don’t), or that I want to be naked on stage (I don’t), or that I want hairy armpits (I don’t). The point is that I can CHOOSE what I want, and how I want to live. How has it taken me thirty-seven years to finally realize that!?

A lot of my fear, and my knee-jerk loathing of Amanda came from my own sense that I’m not being enough of an artist. I know that to write is my calling. It is not a requirement, but a personal, deeply embedded categorical imperative. Amanda’s way of living makes me realize I’m a coward. I’m too scared to take a chance and put writing first. I’m too afraid to trust. I’m afraid of having to ask for help.

My mother in law passed away a little over two months ago. Her death was sudden, and entirely unexpected. It shocked me to realize that her years ticked past, my years are ticking past… it was upsetting to realize I’d never taken the time to ask her the real questions about who she was. It was upsetting to realize I’d never asked myself those same questions.

I’m asking now. I’m still afraid. But, I’m asking.

And I won those tickets.

 

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14 thoughts on “The Fear of Asking

  1. I like this.
    You know when kids blow out the candles and make a wish? Everyone says “don’t tell or it won’t come true.”
    I always countered with “Tell everyone! How ELSE will it come true!”
    Especially to my son.
    The hardest thing is to be your TRUE self.
    When you finally do it it’s the best day EVER. And there is a domino effect–when one part of you–(for you your artist) becomes genuine–WATCH OUT–the rest follows.
    Go Aniko!

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    • I’d never considered the message we were sending by telling people to keep their biggest dreams hidden inside. That does seem like a passive-aggressive way to say that dreams are something shameful. It’s a quieter way of shouting “get a job!” at the street performers, a way of telling people their dreams aren’t right, and they must live a certain way. You always bring a different perspective. Thank you.

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  2. I don’t think you’re afraid to trust, Aniko – you speak very openly, and sometimes rawly, about your emotions on this blog. You take your readers with you on your journey. And fiction, while it might theoretically be a lie, actually reveals very deep truths about the person who wrote it. To write, and then to publish, fiction, requires a lot of trust and courage.

    I sometimes feel that, in my day-to-day life, I’m living a lie and pretending to be something I’m not. I try to justify it by thinking of it as a necessary compromise, but in my more truthful moments I know it’s actually because I’m just scared of the alternative. And that isn’t a good thing. So I need to work on being my real self too!

    I loved the Amanda Palmer video, by the way. It’s interesting that she’s turned the whole question of internet piracy on its head, at a time when the traditional music industry finds its very existence being threatened by that same thing. I think that’s relevant for writers, too. The internet has irrevocably changed the old buyer/seller dynamic, and there are probably enough pirated eBooks out there to keep the most avid reader going for years. What does that mean for writers? I think Amanda Palmer’s take on that question is interesting.

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    • I am glad you got the chance to watch the video. I think Amanda Palmer has done more to challenge the legacy music business than any other person. That she’s a woman probably really burns – especially because she’s a woman who refuses to conform to the standard archetype of beauty. I am really, really toying around with giving all of my books away for free. I did for a few months, but then I read another book that made me reevaluate my stance on free… which is odd, because in my heart/soul/conscience, I know that for me, giving the stories away for free is the only right thing to do. I just have to figure out the logistics of adding a donate button. I wish writers had a service like singers have Bandcamp, which allows for both free downloads or the option to purchase. Then I wouldn’t have to manage the donation half of things myself.

      I know what you mean about feeling like you have to live a lie because you work a job other than writing. I also tell myself that it is a necessary compromise. At this point, I’ve taken on some debts (mortgage!) with my husband, and it is only honorable that I continue to work until that is paid off. It is a shared burden. We’re already making a financial commitment to me taking at least six months off at the end of my current job. I think I owe my writing at least one chance to be the primary focus of my life. I would love it if I could get to a point where this house is paid, and we can sell it for more than we bought it for (the housing market is going bonkers here, and the value of ours keeps going up!), and buy something outright back home in the Eastern United States. I want a small cabin, on some land, about an hour from a town. I want tall trees and true darkness at night. I want to write with my biorhythms, not just squeeze in paragraphs when I can. But it takes money… which I’m earning now. We shall see.

      Thank you for commenting, Mari.

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      • I hope you get your small cabin, Aniko! And if I’m ever in the USA perhaps I’ll come and visit you.

        Yes, thanks for introducing me to the Amanda Palmer video – very interesting. In fact, I’m thinking that it may form the basis of a future blog post…

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  3. Such a powerful post, Aniko! I have so many thoughts running through my head after reading it. (Sorry if I end up being long-winded in my response…)

    First off- I love this quote, “…I know that when someone or something disturbs me, that means I have something to learn…” This is such a healthy perspective and I think it makes you instantly ahead of the game because it leaves your door open to knew experiences and ideas. You’re receptive to what life has to teach you. It may seem like a simple idea, but that’s no small accomplishment in and of itself.

    I relate to your feelings of restlessness. The idea that you need to CHOOSE the direction your life is headed and wondering if, up until that point, it’s really just been a series of reactions. I wish I could express to you just how much I relate to that feeling. I’ve been there. I’ve found myself lying in bed at 3 am, staring at the ceiling and thinking, “How the heck did I get here? Where the heck am I going?” You once asked me how I went from being a stockbroker to an as-yet-unpublished author. This is the reason.

    And, it takes a LOT (a lot, a lot…) of courage to decide you want to change your situation. Especially if what you have isn’t wholly uncomfortable. If – actually – for the most part your life is fairly good. And yet, some part of you is still unsatisfied. Left wondering, “What if?” It’s like a little splinter that keeps catching you in your instep when you’re walking.

    The idea of waking up one day and that “what if?” haunting me is what finally spurred me to action. The idea of that splinter dogging my walk through life was scarier than the thought of trying to reach for my dreams. But, I never would have been able to take the first step if I didn’t first sit down, communicate what I wanted (in this case, with my husband – but also out loud to myself,) and come up with a plan for how to make it happen. We made that plan together because I knew whatever change I made would affect us both (kind of like your mortgage payment. Well, actually, exactly like your mortgage payment.)

    I truly hope you can create a path to pursue your dreams, and then find the courage to walk it.

    As far as the “Art of Asking.” Such a great video! I admit I’m not familiar with Amanda Palmer’s work (although I plan on looking her up after I write this tome of a response.) I love that she doesn’t once mention “marketing” or “selling.” She focuses on fostering relationships and connecting. Once again, this topic seems to be coming into my life at the most perfect time. (I’m referring to my most recent post on social media and marketing. But moreover, I’m entering a phase where I need to learn how to ask for reviews and how to approach others about my writing.)

    We talked once on Twitter about how the universe has a way of providing what you need…as long as you’re receptive to it. And then, here you go – YOU WON THAT RAFFLE! I think it’s a very good sign the universe is knocking on your door. Stride through the portal!

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    • Okay, I’m listening to music. How the hell have I not heard this before? She’s awesome! Also, don’t you just cringe when you spot a typo after submitting a comment? Please forgive the “knew” in the 2nd paragraph. I do realize it should be “new.” D’oh!

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      • I am rather new to Amanda’s work, too! I don’t know how I missed her until now, too. Many, many people did not know who I was talking about when I said I was going to see her perform last week; hopefully, they all check her out and now she has oodles more fans!

        -aniko

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    • You are an inspiration, Satin. I appreciate you taking the time to write your response, while simultaneously apologizing for my slow reply. Life was unusually busy this week.

      I love it that you decided to make a change to give your writing a chance. It is important to make those sorts of plans with your spouse, and after reading your thoughtful comment, I feel like I’m not alone in being the wife who says, “I know we’re very comfortable financially, and our life is almost perfect … but I want to make a drastic change.” We are both lucky to have husbands who love us enough, and see us as equals, and who would rather us be fulfilled than force us to continue on an inauthentic path for their comfort. Many, many women are not as fortunate. Many,many people in general are not as fortunate. I don’t have children, a conscious decision, which I think takes some of the pressure off, too. I can be a bit “wacky” and I know Mr. Aniko and I will be fine, but we also don’t have to pay for braces or college or tubas (or perhaps, a ukulele, like AManda Palmer). That would make this into a multivariable decision, rather than a more simple equation!

      Amanda Palmer is one of those people who makes me realize that life is bigger than I’ve allowed mine to be. I’m glad you’ve found something of value in her TED talk. I like it that she is bringing the idea of the interaction of an artist and the community into our “living in the future” generation. It is the cycle of gifts which nourishes a group, not the stale and distant celebrity worship, which always places one person as a demi-god, and the followers as a lesser being. Amanda’s patronage tactics return to the ancient way of allowing the creator to be on a level with the people who crave her creations. It shouldn’t be revolutionary. That it is says a lot that isn’t very good about the “Me-ness” of Western culture in, well, my entire lifetime.

      Thank you again for the excellent, thoughtful comment!

      -aniko

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      • I think your point about not having children is well taken. Not that you *can’t* pursue other – more personal – dreams with children, but I can see how the logistics and surmounting the fearful wall of consequences would be much harder. My husband and I are also child-free by choice, and it made this step easier knowing no little ones would be harmed in our experiment.

        Yeah, even though I’ve just discovered her, I can already tell I admire her a lot. I can only imagine that if the artist is too far removed from the community, their creativity would dry up. I suspect mine would, anyway!

        I think it’s like anything in life, really. Everything in moderation. If we’re all consumers, there will be no art produced. If we’re all producers, there will be no audience to appreciate. The trick is finding a balance.

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      • I agree that having children doesn’t preclude one from following her dreams, but… BUT. I was always of the opinion that when you have a child, your life becomes about being the best parent you can be. This may not leave much time for art. Maybe, after children, art feels less compelling. I don’t know, and will likely never know. What I do know is that when I’m ready to take the plunge and work full-time at writing, I only have to worry about two capable adults finding enough money for food! It would be something else entirely if I was supporting a little one.

        I am glad I’ve met you! You are a lovely person, Satin, and you say thoughtful, well-considered things. Thank you!

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      • OH! One other thing, we ABSOLUTELY are lucky to have partners in our lives who love us enough to not hold us back. Who support us and want to see us fulfilled and happy. Isn’t it amazing?

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      • We are fortunate! I think it says something very positive about our spouses, but also says something pretty important about us, too. I wish more people that I know would insist upon a partner who wants to see him/her be fulfilled and happy.

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