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.

#368: Amanda Palmer on Creativity, Pain, and Art

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]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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30 Replies to “Amanda Palmer on Creativity, Pain, and Art (#368)”

  1. Whoa, this is amazing- she IS a Jedi! Powerful further in and so deep, though-

    <3- listening now – thank you for this, missed the first interview

    Buying "The Art of Asking" for sure-

    and a BOOK RECOMMENDATION, Tim: (especially in light of this podcast episode and in particular the Audible edition): Art and Fear- Observations on the Rewards (and Perils) of Artmaking. by David Bayles and Ted Orland (2001)- so many gems, in the vein of Steven Pressfield

  2. an unexpected thursday gift.

    this conversation was life giving.

    amanda palmer is life giving.

    the wider the range of your guests,

    the greater the treasures.

    thank you for having people who will have these beautiful, raw, necessary conversations in this space.

  3. Amanda Palmer rocks it. I love seeing you interview women – it would be nice to see a more even ratio of this 🙂

  4. This interview, like all of your work was amazing, Amanda is amazing. I am a long time reader. Please interview Andrew Yang. He is the President we need, vs. the one we deserved in 2016.

  5. Tim, thanks for sharing the New Yorker article “The Bell Curve” in your Friday email today.

    I have Cystic Fibrosis so it was particularly meaningful and useful to me.

    It’s a valuable history that I’ve never heard of.

    I had no idea that there were hospitals and doctors that consistently created outliers in life expectancy.

    But I feel like this gives me a better framework to work from in making decisions.

    There are people and places to model.

    There are outliers with CF and not just because they got lucky with their health.

    Hopefully I will be one of those outliers that others with CF may be able to model in the future.

    Thanks for your work. I especially want to thank you for this 5-Bullet Friday. 🙂

    PS. I wasn’t sure where I could thank you so I shared it here and on FB. Sorry if you got it twice. 😅

  6. This is the first time, I am listening to Amanda Palmer and I am like ‘She is Amazing’. I liked the story of her arrested in Australia and put in to the jail, and the way she was expressing.I am loving her personality now and may be I am going to Buy this Book

  7. I think her suggestion to have a patreon account is a good one. I would subscribe to a Tim Ferriss patreon. The work you are doing is very important, and I appreciate it.

  8. First time blog commenter here!

    Tim, I absolutely loved this episode, like all your work. The discussion about pain, and ensuring that you access other areas of your emotional life was very thought provoking. It made me think about joy, and the power accessing this emotions has. Because like pain, joy is strong, makes you feel vulnerable and has an impermanence to it that makes me extremely grateful to experience it!

    Thanks again Tim. You truly are one of the five people I most associate with, and you’re a true gift to the world!

    A friend from afar,


  9. Dear Tim,

    I am a first time commentor here – something about this episode just did it for me – and I love the directions that you’re taking with the show. I love hearing you interview women, and echoing the thoughts of a commentor above – I’d love to see more of those! You’ve mentioned Tara Brach a couple of times now – it would be fascinating to hear you do one with her. (or maybe Pema Chödrön, or Tenzin Palmo)

    Your show has been such a gift, and such a teacher, I could not be more grateful for everything that you do, words utterly fail me Tim.

    I also love that the show is, maybe more than earlier, in a sense embracing different personality types, and I’d love to hear more questions and answers in that direction, if that makes sense. As someone who is an INFP, I am curious about how world class performers intuitively make choices, and feel their way into decisions, because we’re often not taught how to distinguish between intuition in its different colors, and even beginning to do so can be very interesting.

    Thank you again for everything you do, may love and luck always find you when you need it most…



    1. [Reply from Moderator]

      Thank you. Tim’s interview with Tara Brach may be found at

      Additional interviews with women may be found by entering the following names into the blog search field:

      Dr. Rhonda Patrick

      Tracy DiNunzio (three episodes)

      Maria Popova (two episodes)

      Margaret Cho

      Amanda Palmer (two episodes)

      Danielle Teller

      Whitney Cummings

      Jane McGonigal

      Tara Brach

      Brené Brown

      Sophia Amoruso

      Lisa Randall

      Amelia Boone

      Susan Garrett

      Debbie Millman

      Kara Swisher

      Krista Tippett

      Caroline Paul

      Cheryl Strayed

      Marie Kondo

      Esther Perel (two episodes)

      Maria Sharapova

      Arianna Huffinton

      Sharon Salzberg

      Alice Little (NSFW)

      Bozema Saint John

      Gretchen Rubin

      Catherine Hoke

      Karlie Kloss

      Katie Couric

      Cindy Eckert (formerly Whitehead)

      Whitney Wolfe Heard

      Liz Lambert

      Aisha Tyler

      Ann Miura-Ko

      Doris Kearns

      Samin Nosrat

      Suzy Amis Cameron

      Susan Cain

      Caterina Fake

  10. Hey Tim, I am commenting here since you said this is a good way to ask you questions. As a 14-year old who has been called many times “Future Thinking” That is a blessing and a curse. Which I guess explains why I read your book at a young age.

    I implemented as much as I can without feeling like it is not relevant to me, but I have some questions. After an 80/20 review of where my day goes, I find most of it goes to school and homework, with the most frustrating part being the homework. As this is not what I enjoy, and because of so, is extremely hard for me to focus and work on it. As a result, I get nothing done during those hours I am supposed to be doing my homework. If I try to do my homework later in the day, I end up forgetting to do it all together.

    Here is where my first question comes in. Should I outsource my homework?

    I understand the purpose of homework is to practice, but I could possibly only have the assistant do part of the work, and have them create study notes for me. If it is yes, how will I be able to get the money to hire an assistant, as I am not old enough for a job, and chores are something that I really don’t need. If it is no, what strategies and techniques do you have to help let me get my homework done more effectively?

    My second question, How do I escape public school? Since this is essentially the 9 to 5 that I am, quite literally, forced to go to. Since I can’t exactly stop going, is there some way to minimize the productivity lost when it comes to going to school? I know that school (at least in the US) is built to prepare people for working 9 to 5, exactly what I don’t want, So how can I help this?

    Much appreciated Tim, even if you don’t respond, I appreciate your book.

  11. A beautiful, hard-punching interview on human experience and in particular the entirety of human experience for women in giving our next generations. “The strength that women have had for thousands of years to deal with the dark-side of reproduction, the real visceral bloody life and death of…” (1h15). And, you’ll hear two juicy questions too, that got hard-etched into my notebook…”What are you unwilling to feel…?” and “When was the first time in your life you felt things were not OK?”.

  12. Hello. Just wanted to say Tim’s question about what am I unwilling to feel brought up an answer that I wasn’t expecting, despite knowing all about my own self-hatred. I said I was unwilling to like myself for no good reason. Ouch. I hope other people don’t feel that way.

  13. Love it! I don’t normally venture into comment sections but in a quest to contact you your email led me here! I just wanted to say that I really appreciate everything you do and your work brings a lot of value to mine and many others’ lives so thank you Tim! Keep doing what you do and wishing you all the best, man. – Hunter James

  14. There was an inadvertent slur that should have been edited out (“I felt g****d by the culture”); otherwise a fine interview.

  15. I usually listen to Tim’s podcasts when I work out in the gym but this one.. I just had to stop everything.. I just cried my eyes out.. and at the same time it’s so powerful! Endless love to Amanda and Neil.

  16. I absolutely fucking loved this episode; it resonated strongly with myself. Amanda brought up some extremely prominent points that all women (and men as well) around the globe have to deal with but, as she brought up, are silenced and remain unnoticed. As a woman, I find myself struggling with a negative mindset trying to accept these day to day burdens. I really appreciated that these points were highlighted in an optimistic light. Your discussion has really put me at ease.

  17. Firstly, I truly LOVED this episode. Thank you for your long-interview format that lets people delve a little deeper on topics that normally don’t get much airplay. I just had one comment, but first let me set the scene.

    I was listening to the show while cycling my commute to work – and being able to relate to many of Amanda’s experiences personally there were tears, laughs and feelings of solidarity by the time I’d cycled through the suburbs.

    Then Amanda began talking about how truly badass women are for all the things we do, and how we need to be raised up and have that acknowledged historically and personally (…at this point I’m feeling amazing and cycling almost as fast as the traffic because her words make me feel like superwoman…) – BUT then …

    Having listened to so many of your shows, I know you respect women and meant no disrespect, but there was a moment of greatness by Amanda, and you came in with a comment along the lines of “not all men ….” and her power was deflated, she immediately began to backtrack so as not to offend, and the topic was changed very quickly.

    All of a sudden my legs felt heavy again and the rest of my ride to work felt slow and quiet. I felt deflated.

    My message to you, and all men who feel that “not all men” needed to be said, is that it didn’t need to be said. We know that already. While Amanda was speaking her truth (MY truth also), at no moment did I feel that a gain in confidence and solidarity by women is at the expense of men. At no point did I feel anger at men individually or as a group. Didn’t even cross my mind. The conversation was about lifting women up at that point (and I was feeling truly badass as a woman at that stage), but (as many men in the media do) you heard something different to what I heard. And I’m sure you were not alone in listening through the male lens, and missing the huge importance of letting women speak without editing, and without feeling threatened by women feeling strength.

    I really recommend you go back and listen to that part of the conversation, it’s important that a widely listened to person such as yourself checks yourself on your bias.

    I love your work, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered commenting, so please no disrespect intended. Thanks for reading x

    1. Annie — I absolutely agree. Amanda was painting a powerful and eye-opening picture of the strengths and pains particular to women, and then Tim basically grabbed the mic to interject the “not all men” defense, plus some nervous digression, which derailed the conversation.

      Tim, please, it is OK to let guests go on at length, and let the discussion go where it will, without your editorial re-directs.

      That one was really unfortunate. Amanda was gracious about it, but you really cut her off at the knees there.

      1. I had the exact same reaction to this moment. It was an unfortunate – and jarring – mark on what was otherwise a great and really powerful episode. Glad this has been called out, and hoping that Tim is open to revisiting the tape and evaluating his response with these comments in mind.

  18. The Matthew Walker recommendation is an excellent one. The importance of sleep on all aspects of health, recovery and mental well being is clearly significant.

    I’d also recommend Prof Steve Peters as a guest, Steve wrote ‘the chimp paradox’ and has helped world performing teams like ‘team sky’ and ‘GB Olympic cycling’ to have world class mindsets as part of their daily rituals.

  19. Thank you so much for this interview. This felt like a bit of a departure from some of your usual topics, but in the best possible way. I listen to your podcast primarily for business and productivity-related fare, and while Amanda is obviously an extremely successful and innovative businesswoman in her own right, what floored me about this episode is how her storytelling left me in tears. Time-management hacks and investment advice are great; but this one reminded me that, sometimes, it’s as important to just stop and *feel* things .

  20. hi tim,

    i really loved this interview. it was so rich!

    what really stood out for me is the moment that amanda expresed that feeling of liberation when she pulled the trigger on a patron funded model and how she could finally put to rest those 18 month cyclic hustles that were taking away from her art.


  21. I don’t understand her comment, F*** capitalism. Seems like someone taking in $500,000 per year should enjoy capitalism. Talk about evil people being the 1 percent! Sure, capitalism can be used in a horrible way, but considering the 100 million people murdered in the name of socialism in the last century, capitalism seems to be the better option.