PEN DIY: Amanda Palmer on How All Writing is Writing
Discussed: social media, how to write a book in seven months, Lady Gaga, and songs written for the ukulele.
The audaciously creative Amanda Palmer put her own spin on our PEN DIY series as she took to the stage in front of a packed house this past Monday at the Ace Hotel. Amanda Palmer is a rock-star, performance artist, author, and crowd-funding pioneer. Her memoir, The Art of Asking, is part manifesto and part revelation, celebrating her fearless efforts to understand and pursue twenty-first century rules of exchange in love, life, and art.
Prior to her performance, Palmer had used social media to crowd source questions that she answered in five timed segments. To end the night, she picked up her ukulele and took song requests from the crowd.
How to Write a Book
Set a deadline. Figure out what motivates you and create situations in which you’ll be motivated. Amanda said writing her memoir The Art of Asking didn’t become real until she was told that if she could deliver it in seven months, it would be a featured release. After checking in with her husband, himself an award-winning novelist, that it was physically possible to write a book in such a short time frame (he said she could do it if she focused on nothing else) she threw herself into writing.
The first two drafts had to be discarded because she felt she was writing the way she thought someone writing a book should write. The key to success was forgoing her preconceived notions of what book-writing was like. In her own words, she thought “I’ll just write my book like I write my blog and some editor can capitalize this shit.”
How to Write a Song
In her life, Amanda says, she has written a lot of songs in one sitting, some even the night before a gig in a fit of sudden inspiration. Most of these songs, she finds, are more resonant than the ones she performed a lot of “surgery” on. One of the songs she played later in the evening, “Gaga, Madona, Palmer: A Polemic,” was written initially as an angry blog post, and later transformed into a song, which was written and uploaded to Youtube in one sitting.
How to Write a Blog
Palmer writes what has been called “emotions-first prose,” and the blog posts she composes are barely edited.
The important thing about blogging, she says, is to be forgiving: if you have to choose between living your interesting life and writing a blog about it, choose life.
How to Write a Tweet
Twitter is ephemeral: the advantage of it is that it forces you to economize your thoughts and feelings into poetry.
How to Deal With People Hating All of the Above
The only advice here is that it gets better over time. Palmer does a lot of yoga, and meditates, and she reads the hate mail, but lets things pass through her.
Posting your work on the Internet is a positive way to get immediate feedback, and to get over the fear of posting, you just have to “cringe and deal.” In Palmer’s words, a lot of life is about “stumbling to the nonexistent finish line and faking and faking it until you realize you don’t have to fake it as much.”
Next month, PEN DIY will feature Jennifer Weiner leading a DIY on “How to be Authentic on Social Media.” Be sure to catch this formidable writer six weeks before her Unfranzen Bash!