Friday, April 22, 2016 Permalink

My last two Friday posts have referenced an interview between Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown. As I’ve mentioned, I find both women inspiring in terms of their outlook(s) and approaches to life and creativity.

And I swear this will be the last time I mention that podcast but I couldn’t let it go without mentioning yet another point of discussion… related to martyrdom.

It wasn’t until I listened to other podcasts in the series I realised Gilbert talks about martyrdom quite a lot and suggests it’s something kids mirror from their parents.

Brene talked about martyrdom vs tricksterism. I have to admit I’m not entirely sure what she meant by the latter, but I could most certainly relate to her conversation about the former. And I suspect many others can as well.

Brene talked about martyrdom particularly as it related to creativity. She talked about locking herself away and toiling over her writing. She sounded as if the process (for her) was akin to those nuns who have to pray in isolation… not speaking to another soul. She finally became tired hearing herself complain about her writing and what a challenge and chore it was; and was forced to ask herself:

Does creativity have to be born* through sacrifice, pain and torment?

Should it be difficult? And not enjoyable?

Brene also talked about the ‘narcissism of depression and hyper-independence’ which I thought was quite interesting. I’m not too sure about the depression thing, but the hyper-independence / martyrdom thing – I get. And I’m as much of an offender as anyone.

Nowadays, rather than boast about how great we have it, we’re increasingly likely to complain about how bad shit is.

We have no time. Our kids are shockers. We are terrible mothers feeding our children KFC. We have megatonnes of washing we haven’t done. We’re behind in our blog posting. We haven’t done any blog reading or commenting. We’re so poor.

And yes, I’ve slipped some of my own examples in there amongst others. I think I’ve talked about it before, but I’ve often thought we sometimes compete to see who’s got it the worst? I always (personally) put it down to wanting to feel like a victim and gain sympathy, but it’s also about martyrdom.

“Oh, look at me… I’m so busy and yet I’ve done xyz.” And similar.


But meanwhile, back to my point (and yes, I do follow too many thoughts down rabbit-holes), I wonder if our passions are allowed to be enjoyable?

And as for Brene’s example, she commented that she feeds off interactive sessions and others. So… rather than skulk by herself slaving over a hot laptop or notebook, she now gathers her team together and they spend days brainstorming. Someone takes notes – which Brene then moulds into the book – but essentially she sets the agenda and they work through stuff as a group.

As I’ve been writing this it occurred to me… the same could be said of losing weight or getting fitter and healthier. We expect it to be a horrible horrible experience. And it nearly always is. It reeks of deprivation and forcing ourselves to do things we don’t want to do.

I compare it to my writing and wonder if it’s possible to make health and fitness fun? I mean, I once enjoyed exercising. Long time readers will remember how much I loved my faux Zumba classes… to the extent I’d go into the gym at work on my days off, to attend.

As usual I have no answers but for the first time I’m pondering on the concept of change, transformation and martyrdom. I’m wondering if it has to be tortuous. Does the end result feel more fulfilling if we’ve indulged in some self-flagellation along the way? Or should the journey (perhaps) be as enjoyable as the destination?

How do you take the drudgery out of your creative (or other) pursuits?

PS. I’ve pondered the ‘born vs borne’ thing… but think Brene meant – give birth to, so I’ve gone with born!

Flogging my blog With Some Grace today!

  • Vanessa
    April 22, 2016

    I don’t even know where to begin. I wrote a while ago about how I noticed that some of my favorite TV show scenes were filmed when the actors were exhausted and working late nights. But it gave the scenes incredible emotion and authenticity and made them very, very powerful. So there can be a value in art being created in less than perfect ways. I don’t think it needs to be common though. It needs to be an exception, not a rule.

    On a personal level, I go up and down with the “Yeah, I can do everything” through to “Am I wearing pants?” Life isn’t always one or the other. Art isn’t always good. We aren’t always productive at writing. But sometimes we are!

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      I envy those people who take themselves to coffee shops etc to write. For some reason I feel like I have to be at my desk at home…

  • writeofthemiddle
    April 22, 2016

    Great thought provoking post Deb! I subscribed to the Elizabeth G and Brene B podcast series but haven’t got around to listening to any yet. This just proves the point I’m about to make. The problem I have with my creativity and wish to do so much is that I get overwhelmed and cannot do it all. I bookmark pages that I never get back to. I buy books that sit waiting and waiting for me to read. I subscribe to podcasts that wait and wait for me to listen. I list blog post ideas that wait and wait till the inspiration hits me. I have ideas to progress my photography but they remain just that – ideas. I have so much creative stuff in my head that I get paralysed because on top of my day to day chores – being mother and running a house (cooking, cleaning, washing and so on) there is never enough time for it all. Mind you – I can waste way too much time on Facebook!! I think it’s about balance and prioritising – which I need to get sorted out! 😉

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      Very true Min – it comes down to prioritising. I know that I ‘could’ get way more done if I was more efficient and wasted less time. And sometimes it occurs to me that I could have gotten stacks done in the time I spend wallowing or complaining! But yes, I can very much relate as I get hamstrung when it feels like I’ve got too much to do and I’m not sure where to start as it’s just overwhelming. Even though part of me KNOWS when I start it will be fine!

  • Mystery Case
    April 22, 2016

    What a thought provoking post. I’m possibly a little too tired after just 2 hours sleep to be in a position to comment.

    Just as much as people don’t want to hear about people complaining about how bad they’ve got it, people also aren’t so keen to hear about people boasting about how good they’ve got it either. You can’t please everybody, which means you should just focus on what pleases you. If something isn’t pleasing you and it isn’t essential and/or work related take a break. If something is a struggle, I wouldn’t necessarily give up. Some of my greatest achievements have come after a huge struggle.

    Personally, I know I do far too much complaining online. I have a lot to complain about but only a small percentage makes it online. It’s my outlet, when it probably shouldn’t be. Perhaps it is time to set some social media complaining guidelines for myself and stick to them.

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      I worry I sometimes complain online too much Raych as I live alone and have no one else to say it to. I often find myself about to type a tweet or status update and think… wow… wait a second – the world doesn’t need to know that.

      And yet I posted one such status update on FB today – complaining about my lack of diet coke / caffeine (Day 4) and stuff I had to do! :-/

  • Kathryn
    April 22, 2016

    I used to be quite the martyr. But then saw how a friend of mine never saw himself that way or felt or acted that way. His joy in life helped me no end. So I am a Catholic – and I think we are a bit tainted that way. Anyway seeing my friend challenge all that changed my seeing of things. I don’t believe in deprivation or for that matter over indulgence, but we have this amazing life. Are we going to say at the end I was happy most of the time or … I was a jolly good martyr!

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      Ah yes… they’re the people to admire aren’t they? The ones that get stuff done and help others without whining or boasting about it!

  • OurParallelConnection
    April 22, 2016

    I have always struggled to ask for help but the first to offer it. I’ve been told it is part of being a martyr which I don’t like and don’t want to be. Slowly, I am learning to share the load and the love

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      I struggle to ask for help and think I worry about being indebted and probably also being seen as needy or a ‘user’. I’ve always lived alone so think some of it comes from me needing to show I don’t NEED others! Sigh…

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    April 22, 2016

    What an interesting and thought provoking post, Deb. I think martyrdom is almost ingrained in us in the modern world where we have to try and fit 28 hours of tasks (or something like that) in a 24 hour period. With the glorification of busy and all the things on our to-do list it’s hard not to be a martyr. That said, I think we’d be far happier if we counted our blessings and talked about how good life was (but not in a braggy way) instead. As for creative pursuits, my line is if it’s not enjoyable, don’t do it. Life really is too short to do things that don’t make you happy!

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      I follow a couple of writers online Sammie who are really positive people and share really nice stuff about their writing every day. Even if the words came with difficulty they’ll say that but in a celebratory way… They are my idols!

  • annettelucycharlton
    April 22, 2016

    Thank you for your insightful post. I feel when I am not being appreciated that I tend to fall into a state of martyrdom. I think I fall into this hoping close family members will realise all I do and voice appreciation.

  • Book Birdy
    April 22, 2016

    Excellent post Deb. And I think you’re right about the ‘martyrdom’ idea. It’s almost like ‘busy’ has become some kind of badge of honour – or some kind of comment on the value of our lives ie if we’re busy, it implies we’re needed and productive. As for writing, I’m not sure it’s always fun – but it’s incredibly satisfying when it’s done!

  • theplumbette
    April 22, 2016

    This has been a good post for me to read Deb because I do often complain about being time poor. But when I do have more time, I’m not as efficient – if that makes sense? I would like to spend more time writing as a craft. I have a few ideas for books in my head… but here I go again, not enough time to develop and write them.

  • sanchthewriter
    April 22, 2016

    My mum is a bit of a martyr and scarily, I realised I was doing it too even though I’ve pulled her up on it a whole number of times. I complain about how much I’ve got to do and yet, when someone offers to help, I’ll not take it. If that’s not being a martyr, I don’t know what is. It’s also quite narcissistic in a way because it assumes that no one can do whatever it is like you.

    Your post has me wondering about my fear of pursuing my freelance writing and copywriting — there’s definitely a fear or failure and rejection but is there also a bit of martyrdom? Like I’m too busy now with xyz that I couldn’t possibly indulge in that.

  • Tali
    April 24, 2016

    Interesting point you made here. The message that we must work hard to get results is so ingrained within us from childhood, that it must feel like the results will be less satisfying if we don’t work as hard… However I think that even if the results are less satisfying (and I’m not sure they are!) it is definitely a more sustainable way to get and maintain these results over time.

    • Debbish
      April 24, 2016

      I completely agree re the sustainability thing Tali – it’s certainly been the way with me for weight loss etc…

I'd love to hear your thoughts