Monday Motivations: The monster and the hero

The monster is the most precious of enemies: therefore it is the enemy one goes and looks for.  Other enemies might simply attack us; the Giants, for example, or the Titans, representatives of an order in the process of being replaced, or looking for revenge for having already been replaced. The monster is quite different. The monster waits near the well-spring. The monster is the spring. He doesn’t need the hero.  It is the hero who needs him for his very existence, because his power will be protected by and indeed must be snatched from the monster. When the hero confronts the monster, he has as yet neither power nor knowledge. The monster is his secret father, who will invest him with a power and knowledge that can belong to one man only, and that only the monster can give him.

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

By Glove and Cowl: Using Sewing Magick to Boost Our Words

My article “By Glove and Cowl: Using Sewing Magick to Boost Our Words” is up over on Llewellyn’s website.

Learn how to make a pair of fingerless gloves and a cowl from soft and cozy fleece. Not only will they keep you warm, they can be enchanted to give powers to your words.

Click on the link above to find step-by-step instructions.

Monday Motivation: Give it away

“Give it away give it away give it away give it away now.”

Give it Away, Red Hot Chili Peppers

As singer Anthony Kiedis notes in his memoir Scar Tissue, a girlfriend once gave him a jacket of hers, because she thought giving things to the people she loved made her life better. “It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing,” wrote Kiedis. “That stuck with me forever. Every time I’d be thinking ‘I have to keep,’ I’d remember ‘No, you gotta give away instead.’ … Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.—11 Misinterpreted ’90s Songs With Lyrics With Lyrics That Totally Went Over Your Head As A Kid, Gabrielle Moss

Monday Motivation: The making of things

By bringing positive intention to the making of things and creating to soothe our own as well as others’ emotions, we can discover what it’s like to create for the greater good.  By making intentionally ugly things, we question conformity to media beauty standards, and we can see how difficult (and important) it is to create without pure aesthetics in mind.  Finally, by following our roots and connection to the DIY ethos, we see how our own work can unfold and allow us to find our best selves.

—Betsy Greer, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism

Dare to Suck

Once upon a time, I enjoyed playing racquetball despite the fact that I suck at it. I wasn’t just bad. I was an introverted book nerd with clumsiness baked into my genes chasing after a little blue all and failing nine times out of ten to actually return a volley. Even so, I loved playing. It was freeing to enjoy something I was spectacularly bad at.

My ex-husband was less enthused about playing with me. The first few times I think he put up with my running and giggling while missing the ball because I hadn’t ever played before. He expected me to get better. When I didn’t, he began to play to my level, not putting a lot of energy into the game. Upon realizing that he was purposely playing badly, I told him he didn’t have to. It didn’t hurt my feelings that he was better at the game than I was. And I didn’t mind losing 15-0. The point was to have fun.

Once assured he didn’t have to “play down” to me, his whole demeanor changed. He would hit the ball with such force that the rebound sounded like a gun shot. I was dodging the ball now, instead of missing it. A couple of times it hit me with enough force to leave a mark. This was the way he played with his friends—all men. They didn’t so much as serve the ball as assault it with the racket. Winning and winning through the biggest display of aggression was the point.

My ex could only approach racquetball—and our relationship—in two modes: humoring me or total domination. I dropped racquetball. I wasn’t allowed to just enjoy running around, swatting at a ball. It wasn’t fun.

This anecdote has been weighting on my mind the last few days. In November I shared a tweet on my Idiorhythmic Designs Facebook page:

Twitter User: jen is #RedForKashmir @bookavid: "Destroy the idea that you gotta be good at artistic things to enjoy them, that every hobby has to become smth you're good at, you can monetize it 
"A capitalist lie.
"Sing offkey, draw poorly, write badly. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not monetized.  You're not a product."

It got shared and liked a lot. The response was 99% positive. But there was a 1% who took offense with the message. One person even took the time to comment: “Stupid bitch, tell that to my bills.”

A few others shared with similar remarks. What I had read as being an inspirational piece of advice, others viewed as an attack.

There is this great distaste for the term “amateur”. It seems to have become conflated with “dilettante”. The two words share an overlapping general definition, as being the opposite of a professional. But where the latter has an added connotation of being a negative, the former has, at least until recently, been a neutral term.

As the tweet points out, hobbies—especially those that involve the arts—have become commodified. The gig economy, and the idea that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” are prevalent. Viewing every act of creativity through that lens leaves no space for doing something for the joy of it, even if you suck at it.

And yet, I get it. As someone who makes her (not so very lucrative) living from her creative efforts, it is imperative that I be not just great but phenomenal at what I do. My writing and sewing skills determine if I will be able to pay rent and buy food. I could as easily miss the point of the tweet, reading it as a dismissal of my artistic endeavors and I might respond with a spicy retort about bills, too.

I don’t think the solution is an either/or approach to the for love or money question. An and/also gives people more space to be, to hustle, and to feed their souls with the joy that comes from doing something just because it is fun.

I won’t ever return to racquetball. My knees are less springy than they were almost 20 years ago. But I have other hobbies that I participate in. I doodle and dance, poorly. Next year I have decided that I will try karaoke. I plan on picking up a croquet and a badminton set for our backyard, where I will put my non athletic to use. And should anyone comment on how bad I am at any of it, I will respond with, “Yeah, I suck at it, isn’t it great?”