Things I’ve learned from Stephen Elliott, Amanda Palmer and Kickstarter about Art


As the title suggests, this is some of the stuff I’ve recently learned from Stephen Elliott and Amanda Palmer on art from their art and their respective Kickstarter campaigns.

Some bios on these two:

Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, is being distributed by IFC and opens in theaters September 21, 2012. (via The Rumpus).

Amanda Palmer, sometimes known as Amanda Fucking Palmer, is an American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. She has had a successful solo career, is also one half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and most recently is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. (ripped from Wikipedia, but go to her site here.)


Before we get started, I would like you to check some links on these two and their projects. Stephen Elliott used Kickstarter to fund the film adaptation of his book “Happy Baby”. Amanda Palmer used Kickstarter to fund the new album, tour, book from Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.

For the record, “Happy Baby” had a goal of $85,000 and rose over $93,000 with over 1,000 backers and the new record from Amanda Palmer and TGTO had a goal of $100,000 and rose over $1.1 million with over 24,000 backers. Fucking amazing testament to art!

You can hear Stephen talk about Happy Baby, his other movie “About Cherry” as well as other topics here. Look at Amanda Palmer’s recent music video for “The Bed Song” here. Also please for the love of any god out there, go check out her TED talk on “The Art of Asking” here.

Also, as an illustration to her talk, read her post on a ninja gig she did at the SXSW festival here.
(For reference, find them both on Twitter here and here.)
Okay, did you look, watch, hear, and feel everything? Good! Now I can ramble on about what this means to me. If anyone actually looks at my Twitter feed, I have been on an odd obsession about how honest and open some people are with their lives. Or maybe I have been coming across people who don’t give a shit about what other people think of them or their choices. Either way, I am fascinated.  

I’ve come to some recent conclusions because of that:

 1. My family does not share anything. I don’t know 95% of my biological family and the ones I do know share the same belief that if you have a problem, you keep it to yourself and fix it on your own. There have been rampant addictions throughout my family but it was considered normal and not discussed as something that needed to be concerned about. This has been instilled into me as well.

2. Ever since I made the decision with myself that I can take my writing seriously and not treat it as a dirty secret, I have been slowly introduced to a community of people who are willing to put everything out there. I have read about their problems, their addictions, their passions, their sexuality, their fears, hopes etc… This for the most part has been a very positive experience.

Which leads me to…

Honesty and vulnerability in art. There is an amazing amount of honesty and vulnerability and passion in these two people’s art and lives (so I gather). It is enough to make me look at things I’ve written and how I interact with people on a day to day basis and question all of it. As a fiction writer, I have been able to write about bad stuff, embarrassing stuff, secrets, hopes of my life under the veil of make belief. It is a type of security blanket and it serves to hide away things I don’t want people to judge me for but yet need to talk about in some way.

I heard/read somewhere that there is always an element of memoir in fiction writing. It is also a way to live vicariously in situations that you might never be in. Let’s face it, I have never been a train hopping hobo but I sure would like to try it and I had a blast writing about it. This leads me to question….

Does all art have to be vulnerable? Does it all have to “mean” something?

I don’t have an answer to that. No reason why I should really but I want to talk about it. I love when people tell me stories about their lives because that is how I answer the kinds of questions that never have one definite answer like the two above.

So what I have I learned from these two remarkable people? You may hate me for this but I don’t know. Or rather it is a feeling I get that I am still struggling to articulate into words. Maybe it is something like this; I want to be comfortable with being honest in my work. I want to instill it with the same vibrancy and vulnerability and have it resonate with someone, anyone, at least one other person in the world.

So final conclusion: Go forth, create, be fearless, and make mistakes I suppose.

As always, I hope some of this made sense.


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