An Artist Worries: Will Motherhood Compromise Creativity? Amanda Palmer is a songwriter, musician and performance artist. She's about to have her first child and she talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about the dueling demands of motherhood and art.

An Artist Worries: Will Motherhood Compromise Creativity?

An Artist Worries: Will Motherhood Compromise Creativity?

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Amanda Palmer is a songwriter, musician and performance artist. She's about to have her first child and she talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about the dueling demands of motherhood and art.


Artist and musician Amanda Palmer is very pregnant. And earlier this year, right before she announced that she and her husband, Neil Gaiman, were expecting a baby, Amanda Palmer joined a crowdfunding website for artists. She crowdfunds her work a lot of the time. But this time, a few weeks after sharing her pregnancy news, she got an email from a, quote, "faithful fan."

In this email, this faithful fan wrote the following, and I'm quoting here, "Are your patrons paying for new music or are they paying for a new baby? Is what you're doing really fair to your fans? When will the music happen?" Amanda Palmer decided to write back to her concerned fan in a letter she posted on the website Medium. She joins us now to talk about it.

Hey, Amanda.


MARTIN: So you get this letter from your faithful fan. And you write in the response that this person essentially confirmed your deepest fears about being a mother and an artist. What a nice thing for this person to have done.

PALMER: Yeah, I mean, the part of the letter that confirmed my deepest fears wasn't so much the are you tricking us into crowdfunding a baby. It was more of this fan's terror that now that I was having a baby, I wasn't going to be a good artist anymore.

MARTIN: And is the concern that having a baby - for obvious reasons, it changes your daily routines and your life in terms of how you use your time. But is your concern more about what will be the impact on your creativity?

PALMER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's seems like there's a paradox out there because on the one hand, so many artists who are parents will tell you that having children unlocks this unforeseen wellspring of creativity. On the other hand, some of the proof of concept (laughter) can fly in the face of that. And, you know, there's definitely artists out there who kind of get boring after they have kids but seem to not be aware of it. So nobody's anecdotal evidence can really prepare you for what's going to happen. You just know that you're going to change and you don't know how.

MARTIN: You wrote in your response to this fan that you had grappled for a long time with whether or not to have a baby. What changed it for you? What tipped the scales?

PALMER: I think when it came down to it, I wanted to experience everything in my life and I figured this was just one I didn't want to mess. I was like, this is going to be so surreal and bizarre. And I don't know what it is, and I'm - you know, and I'm heading into a mystery.

MARTIN: You write in the piece that you look to the women who you can point to who have lived similar lifestyles - Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco, Bjork - really established, amazing artists, women who are also mothers. So I started Googling around. I was like, oh, yeah, Ani DiFranco, I forgot that she was a mom. And I was looking around to see how old her kids are.

And the first thing that popped up in my search was a recent piece from earlier this year - San Francisco Chronicle online. It was all about how having kids and being a certain age, how it affected her creativity. And I wanted to read this to you and see - get your take on it. She said in the piece, quote, "Children are a huge diversion. They stop time and take up my energy. I live in a new country now - Mommieland. Kids demand your attention, which can be frustrating, but it is hidden benefits that keep me from being too immersed in my work and myself."

How does that sit with you? Does that terrify you? Does that inspire you? Do you just want to say forget it, that's Ani DiFranco's experience, I'll have my own?

PALMER: When I hear her say that, I'm not so much filled with terror, but I'm reminded that up until now that was the thing that terrified me, was that I would really lose my artist identity in a way that would make me sad or resentful. When you're an artist and you're so defined by your performance and what you do and what you make, it can be terrifying to give that stuff up and serve something else. But to me, if it's that terrifying, it's possibly necessary for growth.

MARTIN: Do you have infrastructure in place? Do you have a car seat? Do you have a crib? Do you have a place to put your diapers?

PALMER: I have the minimum. I have a car seat, and we've got some diapers and clothes. But I think I'm going to be doing this baby the way I do most of my art projects, which is on an as-needed, ad-hoc, improvisational basis of awesomeness.

MARTIN: Artist and musician, Amanda Palmer. Thanks so much for talking with us, Amanda, and good luck with everything. We'll be thinking of you.

PALMER: Thank you so much.

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