Are you good at asking for help? I’m fine with task related requirements, but personal favors are hard to ask for.
I found an anime club at a local theater, which reminded me of the last anime club I was part of in college. At the time, I went with my boyfriend, and when we weren’t together, I stopped going. But looking back, I bet I could have asked one of my guy friends to walk me to my dorm in the dark.
No one I knew lived in the same dorm, so they would have to go out of the way, which at the time felt like too much to ask. But would they have minded? I don’t know, because I never did ask.
This issue is at the root of Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. Why is it sometimes so difficult to ask for–and accept help? As she unfolds the rather complicated and wandering story of her life and career, she compares the times she easily asked with the ones she couldn’t, and brings in the opinions of a few friends. Those times when it’s most difficult, do, of course, have something in common.
While a fairly famous person now, part of a band, invited to TED talks, married to a well-known author, Amanda Palmer came from humble and a little strange beginnings. Painting her face white, she dressed as a living statue bride, and offered a flower to people who gave her money–an image evoked on the cover. She asked, but she gave, too, an exchange that she valued for more than the money it earned her.
Later, she would go to Kickstarter for a new album, asking, amid unexpected controversy, for the money to produce the music she wanted to for her fans. Some people attacked her for asking, but many others respected her process, and embraced what she had to offer in return.
I heard of her through her husband, writer Neil Gaiman, who features fairly prominently in this book–from how they met, their courtship, and their relationship now. He’s tangled up in the issue of asking, as a wealthy spouse, he can easily give her support–but she’s not willing to accept it. If you’re a Gaiman fan like I am, it’s interesting to see him through the eyes of someone else, but he doesn’t take over the book.
Amanda Palmer made me think, which is the highest praise I can give a book. Her personal path to the art of asking isn’t the same as others will likely have, but there it serves as a lighthouse in a dark and stormy sea. If you can just be brave, and ask, especially if you ask for the right reasons, it’s amazing what can happen.