As creatives, we have a choice. We can be either a martyr and vow to be committed, dedicated, serious, grim, always-on-the-go, strive-for-excellence fit-more-in-a-day-to-achieve-more type.
Or we can be a trickster and be artful, cunning, play games, have fun, cheat- here-and-there-but-harm-no-one and put-in-less-and-get-more type of an artist.
I was recently going through Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and stopped at a section that I had underlined when I first read the book years ago. I started rereading it and laughed my head off.
How could I forget how much I enjoyed it when I read about the martyr and the trickster for the first time?
How could I forget how much I wanted to be a trickster?
Here I am, six years later, still a martyr.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter if you haven’t read it before or need a reminder.
Martyr energy is dark, solemn, macho, hierarchical, fundamentalist, austere, unforgiving, and profoundly rigid.
Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgressive, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.
Martyr says: “I will sacrifice everything to fight this unwinnable war, even if it means being crushed to death under a wheel of torment.”
Trickster says: “Okay, you enjoy that! As for me, I’ll be over here in this corner, running a successful little black market operation on the side of your unwinnable war.”
Martyr says: “Life is pain.”
Trickster says: “Life is interesting.”
Martyr says: “The system is rigged against all that is good and sacred.”
Trickster says: “There is no system. Everything is good, and nothing is sacred.
Martyr says: “Nobody will ever understand me.”
Trickster says: “Pick a card, any card.”
Martyr says: “The world can never be solved.”
Trickster says: “Perhaps not…but it can be gamed.”
Martyr says: “Through my torment, the truth shall be revealed.”
Trickster says: “I didn’t come here to suffer, pal.”
Martyr says: “Death before dishonor!”
Trickster says: “Let’s make a deal.”
Martyr always ends up dead in a heap of broken glory, while Trickerster trots off to enjoy another day.
Martyr = Sir Thomas More
Trickerster = Bugs Bunny
Martyrs are stereotypical starving artists, literally dying for their creativity. It is surprising how many artists want to be martyrs. They are ready to die for their creativity but won’t live for it. We are ready to struggle and suffer rather than have fun with it.
I am the first one to admit that I take everything the hard way. I have always found the martyr’s sincerity more attractive than the trickster’s playfulness.
Not any more.
I am ready to change loyalty and become a trickster. Not because a trickster achieves more with her vivacity than a martyr could with her solemnity, but because I have understood the value of life. I have learned that living a simple life with vigor is better than a complex life full of guilt and sacrifice.
I am pretty sure most of you would also want to be a trickster. You also want to use the energy of a trickster. But you don’t know how to. And even if you make an effort, after a few days, like me, you forget.
I have figured out how to bring permanent change. Ms. Gilbert described it in the next chapter, but I didn’t pick it up in the first read.
The secret of a Trickster lies in a single trait.
“The most wonderful thing about a good trickster is that he trusts. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest this because he can seem slippery and shady, but the trickster is full of trust. He trusts himself, obviously. He trusts his own cunning, his own right to be here, his own ability to land on his feet in any situation. To a certain extent, he also trusts other people. But mostly, he trusts the universe. He trusts in its chaotic, lawless, ever-fascinating ways – and for that reason, he does not suffer from undue anxiety. He trusts that the universe is in constant play and, specifically, that it wants to play with him.” – Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic
Trust is what we need to become a trickster. And trust is what I will be developing in myself, my art, and the universe.
What about you?