Amanda Palmer, Deep Work & Grapes
I saw Amanda Palmer live the other night. I was utterly impressed by:
Her willingness to leap into the unknown, by being honest about where she was at and letting the audience decide how the night would proceed;
Her connection with the crowd, so each person felt like we were just hanging out with her;
The impressive size of the body of work she’s created.
In fact, when I realised the last one, it gave me the same feelings of awe laced with envy that came up when I saw David Sedaris. I simply could not BELIEVE the number of books he’d written! And I could not BELIEVE the number of songs she’d created! In comparison I feel completely lazy.
I desperately want to get all my ideas out of my head and my heart and my body and into the world, but am I just my own worst enemy when it comes to making that happen?
I’d bloody love to have the model that Amanda has - having a community support you to write, publish, record, release, draw, whatever... and just put it out into the world while you continue to work on the next thing.
There’s so much shallow work that goes into her work as an artist: the constant communication with her online community for instance, it makes me wonder, how on earth does she make regular time and space for the deep work of writing?
How does she stay focused enough to complete projects?
And to tour regularly performing LOOOOONG shows (this one is four hours plus), PLUS ninja gigs, PLUS being a partner PLUS being a mother…
During her “abortion shower” song, where she sings:
“I can bring you cake
I can bring you flowers,
We can drink some wine,
And we can talk for hours.”
I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was “Well, okay, but where you would find the time?”
I have way too many ideas that I want to send out into the world but get paralysed by my own overwhelm. Where to begin? The bigger projects (e.g. books) I begin, but then talk myself out of expending the time and energy and hope that it will need to get finished. It just feels too speculative to invest so much in it. So I abandon it and look at maybe working on the next thing... or the next thing…
...and then I soon go back to just doing my shallow admin tasks. The neat little “to-do”s that I can cross off my list and feel that little dopamine hit of satisfaction.
This is so unlike deeper creative work (e.g. writing), which, while pleasurable (sometimes), can feel like I’ve just plopped an idea into the middle of an ocean, with no idea of whether it’s even worth preserving or what direction it’s going in or whether I’ll even revisit it at all or whether I’ll just wave it off as it disappears over the horizon (or worse, forget it altogether while it drifts away) to join the dozens of other ideas I’ve given life and hope to only to abandon them along the way.
Then I google life coaches to help me with this problem and convince myself that yes! That’s the answer! And then I think “no, that’s ridiculous and expensive, just pull your own bloody finger out and do the work” until I realise I’ve spent far too much time on this silliness and really I just need to take a little break and eat grapes.
Meanwhile, my journal remains empty…
Focus. I need focus. How did I write a book last time? Ah yes, that’s right! I had a deadline, somebody to be accountable to, and the decision to work a little bit on it every single day. I already know the freaking recipe, so WHY AM I TRYING TO CHANGE IT?!
Right. Now we’re at the bottom of that, here goes nothing!
But first: grapes.