Amanda Palmer: “Everything Feels Unstable”

Amanda Palmer released another one of her intense, thought-provoking stream of consciousness blog posts, touching on her friend’s struggle with cancer, her own struggle with her first book, and her decision to avoid reading her own book reviews but to read Lena Dunham’s book reviews instead: “every barb, compliment or dagger that goes into her soft book heart….i can just pretend they’re being aimed at me.”

And then she writes this:

i’ve snuck into some recording studios in the past few weeks to record various weird things for various weird reasons. i wrote a song for jason webley’s kickstarter, i made some songs for a compilation coming out for christmas, i recorded some things that have been burning a hole on my pocket for a while. i’m hoping to get them out into the word soon, but like thom yorke and U2 and every other musician on the planet, i’m flying by the seat of my pants, not totally sure what the right delivery mechanism will be in two weeks, in two years, ever. everything feels unstable. the only think i can trust is that someone out there might want or like me or trust my talent enough to support my song-making endeavors. that’s something i can hold onto.

It’s something I didn’t quite realize was in the back of my mind until I read it.

We don’t know.

I think all the time about whether I’ll have this type of job in two weeks or two years. (Two weeks? Absolutely. Two years? Um.) The way we interact with the written word changes just as quickly as the way we interact with the vocalized one; it mutates and shifts so subtly that we can think “remember when people used to type URLs into their browsers instead of collections of words, remember when people used to read blogrolls instead of Facebook news feeds” and we can sort of remember it but not quite, because it was stored in the part of our brains that didn’t keep things that mattered.

The method of receiving information has rarely been kept in the part of our brains that tracks what matters.

The information, on the other hand. That’s what sticks. That’s the only thing we can trust. Compelling stories, captivating songs, brilliant singers who ask the questions that are in the backs of our minds.

And people will still pay money for that, although as Amanda Palmer aptly notes — and as I’ve discovered plenty of times on my own — they’re often not paying for the information, they’re paying for you. The music, the storytelling, you can get for free. They’re paying because they want you to keep working.

It feels very weird for me to write “and if we do wonderful things people will give us money simply because we do wonderful things” in a forum where I know a lot of us are reading these posts on some gap in our workday, where the economic system is very different from the one Amanda Palmer describes. (I’d argue that it’s completely reversed: they’re not paying for you, they’re paying for your contribution.)

But this sense of instability is still there. Do you remember how you did your job before email? Before instant messaging? I used to use a dictaphone and transcribe letters on a typewriter, and that was in 2004. It also has that sense of haze around it, like my brain wasn’t storing that memory in a place that mattered.

We have absolutely no idea, or we have some idea but not quite a firm idea, of how we’ll be doing our jobs two weeks from now and two years from now.

Everything feels unstable.

I don’t have a conclusion for this because there isn’t one. Amanda Palmer is trusting that there will always be people who like her and want to pay for her work no matter how it is distributed. I’m trusting that I’ll always be able to type quickly and generate ideas no matter how words are distributed.

What are you trusting?

Photo: Amanda Hatfield

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