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Trickster Trust

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash


Also stolen from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

(please don’t copystrike me)


I believe that the original human impulse for creativity was born out of pure trickster energy. Of course it was! Creativity wants to flip the mundane world upside down and turn it inside out, and that’s exactly what a trickster does best. But somewhere in the last few centuries, creativity got kidnapped by the martyrs, and it’s been held hostage in their camp of suffering ever since. I believe this turn of events has left art feeling very sad. It has definitely left a lot of artists feeling very sad.

It’s time to give creativity back to the tricksters, is what I say.

The trickster is obviously a charming and subversive figure. But for me, the most wonderful thing about a good trickster is that he trusts. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest this, because he can seem so 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, of course, he also trusts other people (in that he trusts them to be marks for his shrewdness). But mostly, the trickster trusts the universe. He trusts in its chaotic, lawless, ever-fascinating ways–and for this 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.

A good trickster knows that if he cheerfully tosses a ball out into the cosmos, that ball will be thrown back at him. It might be thrown back really hard, or it might be thrown back really crooked, or it might be thrown back in a cartoonish hail of missiles, or it might not be thrown back until the middle of next year — but it will be thrown back. The trickster waits for the ball to return, catches it however it arrives, and then tosses it back out there into the void again, just to see what will happen. And he loves doing it, because the trickster (in all his cleverness) understands the great cosmic truth that the martyr (in all his seriousness) can never grasp: It’s all just a game.

A big, freaky, wonderful game.

Which is fine, because the trickster likes freaky.

Freaky is his natural environment.

The martyr hates freaky. The martyr wants to kill freaky. And in so doing, he all too often ends up killing himself.

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The Martyr vs. The Trickster

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash


Stolen from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


We all have a bit of trickster in us, and we all have a bit of martyr in us (okay, some of us have a lot of martyr in us), but at some point in your creative journey you will have to make a decision about which camp you wish to belong to, and therefore which parts of yourself to nourish, cultivate, and bring into being. Choose carefully. As my friend the radio personality Caroline Casey always says: “Better a trickster than a martyr be.”

What’s the difference between a martyr and trickster, you ask?

Here’s a quick primer.

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 Trickster trots off to enjoy another day.

Martyr = Sir Thomas More.

Trickster = Bugs Bunny.

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I’ll Come Back When I’m Ready

My friends and I have been talking about this a lot. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too.

My immediate circle of friends and I agree upon one thing – that this year has been an absolute force to reckon with. The stuff that we have done in the last few months alone, and the things we’ve learnt, have been beyond epiphanic. I’m at a loss for words when I try to describe how real and challenging and rewarding this year has been. I have never felt this alive, and I have never felt this scared.

You ever do something so out of league it surprises you that you even had the nerve? That’s essentially how my year’s been going so far. Everything from attending a fellowship for Instagram, performing a live audience, flying to Darjeeling on my own, to opening an Etsy shop, to making new friends, I done it all this year. I done it all. Some of them exceeded my expectations, some turned out fine, and some, well. Some been shi**y.

YLAC, for example, opened up so many doors for me, not only in the outside world, but in myself, too. The Counter Speech Fellowship with Instagram has been my biggest achievement yet, and I cannot explain how big of a feat it has been. Guys. I used to HATE Instagram. I hated it to the core. I detested the whole idea of communication via the social internet, mostly because I was scared. I was afraid I’d lose myself in a rush to prove myself to a disconnected audience, to pretend that connections were real when they were the exact opposite, and worst: I thought I’d lose myself, trying so hard to be the person I wished I was but never would be.

I hated Instagram. I hated sharing. But now I don’t.

Achievement? Yes, sir. Gimme a pat on the back, I deserve it.

Then there’s stuff like Etsy, which I did in the most sudden, random outburst of creative energy I have ever experienced. I had a little artwork lying around, I like money, I combined the two ideas, boom, Etsy.

It didn’t work out lol

I got so caught up in the idea of selling my ideas and my thoughts to people that I forgot that this is supposed to feel good. My art is supposed to heal me, before it even tries to heal anyone else. So I left Etsy at that, feeling slightly disheartened about the whole thing.

Just this evening, the universe sent out the words I needed, as always, in the form of my mom and her sage-like advice. She said, and I quote, “It’s good to try something and realize you’re not ready for it. One day, when you put your heart to it, you will be.”

To all the people who are reading this and feeling like you’re being pushed down by the weight of your own expectations, I say this — just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean you’re bad at it, or that you suck, or that your worthless without this thing to feel proud of. It just means you ain’t ready, son. Take your time. Chill. Do something that makes you feel at ease. Keep trying. Don’t stop trying. But don’t rush it. Do more of the stuff that builds you up to the thing you’re not ready for. Build yourself up to that strength. When you’re ready, you’ll know. Let me know, too. I’ll cheer for you.