I have just returned from a week in the Algarve, Portugal – I am slightly woozy with exhaustion and the particular effects of intense sun on a lupus body. I feel parched and floaty at the same time; also satisfied and enriched with love and learning. It was a family holiday. Our first grown-up sibling holiday, with four children. It was hectic. And as with all the best holidays, I had a book to retire with, to curl inside, every night.
My favourite thing is the discovery of a book written by a person whose human life is one you can delve into in real time. The accessibility of it. Amanda Palmer is Real and Now and I simultaneously read her memoir, listened to her read it to me on audible, watched youtube clips of her sing and talk; she is the most energising and authentic woman.
Do you have a family member who believes in This Is Meant To Be? Or maybe you yourself think along fatalistic lines? I like how intriguing and teasing the fates can be. The love story between Palmer, the wild over-sharing body-and-heart exposing rock star and Neil Gaiman, the deeply private polite curly-mop-haired world famous writer of fantasy worlds is endlessly fascinating, but also magically hopeful to the unmarried, still-waiting-for-the-One-but-not-impatiently battered romantic like me.
The Art of Asking is relevant to all of us, artists and non-artists (if any of us are non-artists, which I suspect we aren’t – everyone makes art and beauty somehow, in some way) because we are all afraid of rejection, of being turned down, or most poignantly, because we simply don’t know or can’t imagine what we can ask for. We want, but we don’t know how to ask for it, whom to ask, where to look for help. In my life, dependent as I am on so many people for love and support, worrying about how I will finance myself in some future universe where I am alone and hoping The Books will manifest themselves, I am learning to ask. To be unafraid. To Take The Donuts. Palmer tells us of the recent literary anecdote that has ‘rocked’ the lovers of Henry David Thoreau – the magic of Walden has been dimmed for some because of the discovery that Thoreau was not quite as alone and self-sufficient as his book implies. On Sundays, his mother and sister brought him a basket of freshly baked goods, including doughnuts. He took the donuts (American word, American spelling).
Take the Donuts, Palmer pleads with her readers. Take the help. Ask for the help. And then watch the dots connect themselves in your life. Watch the net of loyalty, trust, compassion, understanding, love, tighten. We need each other. Especially when we think we don’t. Especially when we are writers, and the expectation of our imaginary audience is that The Book will simply write itself while we are on an island, locked away in a shed or disconnected from the pulse of human chaos. Artists need help: food, shelter, money, hugs, perspective, inspiration, friends. Asking for help is part of the art. Offering the help is part of the art. One cannot exist without the other.
Read the book! But if not, here is the book condensed into a thirteen minute TED talk that rightfully went viral…