Beth Pickens is a Los Angeles-based consultant for artists and arts organizations and the author of Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles (Chronicle Books, 2021) and Your Art Will Save Your Life (Feminist Press, 2018).
ZAK: Just saying the word...need, gives makes me hesitate a bit. Instead of coming out and telling someone, I need your help, I usually modify to, I could use your help. But, thanks to today's guest, Beth Pickens, I'm working on being more forthcoming with my needs.
BETH: I think we have to always tell people everything that we need because we all float around we're just little children masquerading as adults...just assuming that nobody needs anything and we're the only ones with needs and we have to get rid of those needs or diminish them. But we all need emotional support.
ZAK: What's a way that we can practice giving and asking for help?
BETH: I like to do everything starting with a quantity. Just quantifying it. A goal of, I'm gonna ask for three things this week that are directly related to my creative practice. And here's what those needs are gonna be and here are some appropriate people I think I could ask. And I'm just gonna practice on the asking. I have no control over the outcome. Then I'm gonna avail myself three times to people. Maybe I'm asked for something or maybe I offer something or I connect with another artist friend and say, this is the kind of help I need right now. What kind of help do you need right now? Let's help each other find it.
ZAK: And not necessarily a one-to-one where the help you're offering you're getting back from the same person?
BETH: Right. Cause maybe the things you ask for maybe you don't know how to give or you don't have that resource to give. Or maybe the person you're asking for something from, they have a different thing to reciprocate with. Cause we all have different things to offer. Some are universal but many are very different. And we always have to identify, who do we ask...How do we match the ask, the request to somebody's who's appropriate. Rather than I'm gonna try to ask this person for emotional support who I know cannot or will not give it. But if I try hard enough, I can prove that I won by going to the hardware store for a gallon milk. They don't have it to give. So we have to think about who are we going to for which things and one person cannot meet every need which is the fallacy of marriage and modernity.
ZAK: Totally. It's kind of like a creativity time-bank you're describing.
BETH: Yeah, very much so.