Amanda Palmer on Creativity, Pain, and Art (#368)

Amanda Palmer and Tim Ferriss

“I’m just so fundamentally optimistic, and I barrel forth in life with this attitude that everything is going to be absolutely fine and go my way.”
— Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) is a singer, songwriter, playwright, pianist, author, director, blogger, and ukulele enthusiast who simultaneously embraces and explodes traditional frameworks of music, theatre, and art. She first came to prominence as one half of the Boston-based punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, earning global applause for their inventive songcraft and wide-ranging theatricality.

Her solo career has proven equally brave and boundless, featuring such groundbreaking works as the fan-funded Theatre Is Evil, which made a top 10 debut on the SoundScan/Billboard 200 upon its release in 2012 and remains the top-funded original music project on Kickstarter. In 2013 she presented The Art of Asking at the annual TED conference, which has since been viewed over 20 million times worldwide. The following year saw Palmer expand her philosophy into the New York Times best-selling memoir and manual, The Art of Asking: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Let People Help.

Since 2015 Palmer has used the patronage subscription crowdfunding platform Patreon to fund the creation of her artwork. This has enabled her to collaborate with artists all over the world with over 14,000 patrons supporting her creations each month. Palmer released her new solo piano album and accompanying book of photographs and essays, There Will Be No Intermission, on March 8, 2019, followed by a global tour. Recorded in late 2018 with grammy-winning Theatre Is Evil producer/engineer John Congleton at the helm, the album is a masterwork that includes life, death, abortion, and miscarriage among its tentpole themes.

Watch the interview on YouTube.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Want to hear an episode with Amanda’s husband? — Listen to my conversation with author and world treasure Neil Gaiman, in which we discuss the writing process, first drafts, artistic collaboration, daily routines, and the merits of fountain pens. Stream below or right-click here to download.

#366: Neil Gaiman — The Interview I've Waited 20 Years To Do


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Amanda Palmer:

Website | Patreon | Twitter | Instagram


  • Books are heavy. Amanda shares one of her favorites that she lifts and gifts most often, and explains how it got her through that one time she was arrested outside an Adelaide Woolworths. [08:02]
  • Amanda’s current book obsession and musings about humanity’s uneven relationship with knowledge, understanding, compassion, and sleep. [15:41]
  • Reflecting on profound interviews and the nature of Amanda’s most recent project — what she considers to be her most personal to date. [21:10]
  • The metric Amanda is using to gauge the success of this record. [23:10]
  • How baring one’s pain and vulnerability can be a generous act. [23:47]
  • “Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. This performance will last seven years.” [28:01]
  • How Amanda met her mentor Anthony, the difference he made in her life, and how she coped with the pain of losing him to a rare form of leukemia, sitting at his deathbed, and the mourning process. [30:33]
  • Amanda takes us through her heartbreaking — and empowering — Christmas miscarriage. [41:46]
  • Why people — women, especially — should be encouraged to talk more openly about trauma, loss, and grief. [52:48]
  • “What are you unwilling to feel?” Amanda talks about an early fear she’s mostly overcome and what she considers to be her current Achilles’ heel. [55:50]
  • The first time Amanda remembers feeling not okay — which likely contributed to her deep-seated fear of feeling unbelieved. [1:01:37]
  • Amanda addresses the “tyrannical and destructive” myth of everlasting pain being a necessary component of the creative process. [1:06:03]
  • On understanding and harnessing one’s pain to make it useful to others, the difference between the pain of childbirth and the pain of imminent danger, and pain as a metaphor for our society. [1:12:46]
  • What we risk when pain becomes our primary motivator. [1:18:22]
  • What we risk as a society when we marginalize the pain of others or monopolize it as a proving ground, and why recognizing that we’re all suffering from some kind of pain — whether it’s physiological or psychological — should be a shame-free part of the cultural conversation. [1:20:33]
  • What is the knock-on effect? [1:29:30]
  • How has moving to a fan-supported model changed Amanda and her art? [1:31:09]
  • What was the boiling point that proved crowdfunding to be an ideal business model for the way Amanda creates? [1:36:04]
  • An example of how crowdfunding helped an artist get his book out to the world when the traditional publishing model failed — and its community offered unconditional support when the worst imaginable thing happened to the creator. [1:37:32]
  • What Amanda especially likes about her community at Patreon. [1:39:53]
  • Crowdfunding platforms may change and evolve, but the current iterations prove that people can come together to ensure their favorite artists don’t have to starve for their art (or deal with a marketing department’s tampering to make said art more appealing to the masses). [1:41:12]
  • Parting thoughts and how you can seek out and support Amanda’s efforts and offerings in the Palmerverse. [1:44:10]