An Ode to My Mindless Job, or I’m Glad I’m Not a Professional Witch

bullet journal spreadThere’s this thing I do that I’m trying to get a handle on. It’s like it’s some inherent part of my personality that I just can’t shake, and it gets me in trouble: I take the things I’m passionate about and I turn them into work.

There’s this maxim that’s been floating around forever that if turn your passion into your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. Near as I can tell, this person (who, according to the Internet, was either Confucius or Marc Anthony, so what does that tell you) probably had someone else’s income and health insurance to supplement those passions. Good for them.

There are lots of people in Pagan and witch communities working to turn their traditions and magical skills into sources of income. Instagram is full of “Boss Witches,” and half of my YouTube friends ask for support on Patreon. I myself have a book about to drop, and am plotting out several others. I’ve sold candles and zines and all manner of other things over the years. We build tarot websites and open up witchy Etsy stores and leverage our social media followings into patrons rather than friends. Many of us can barely try out new recipes for oils and incenses without thinking, almost involuntarily, “Hey, I could sell this.”

On the one hand, it’s kind of awesome that there’s a market for these kinds of things. It means many people don’t have to work jobs they hate, at least in part. Witches have always worked for a price, and I’m no naysayer in that regard. There are many witches and Pagans out there who I’m very happy to throw my own money at because their work is amazeballs.

But there’s a thing I personally can’t seem to get around: when something becomes my job, it starts to drain me. I stop enjoying the thing, and it stops feeling like passion.

I don’t necessarily mean “job” as in “thing I do for income,” either. I mean “job” as in task, obligation, duty, or work.

Those of you—myself included—who are involved in any kind of planner community, even casually, should immediately think of the people who turn every mundane, automatic thing into a bullet journal checklist, just because it feels so good to check the box that says we finished something. Drinking water and recording the weather becomes a job. What started out as a fun, creative hobby that has the side-effect of making us more focused now makes us feel shitty when we can’t decorate an elaborate weekly spread that includes fancy Japanese animal tabs marking every stupid thing we watched on Netflix or every type of booze we drank that week. Where once we were happy, now we feel confined. Obligated.

I can barely read fiction because it feels unproductive. And when I do, I have to productify it by keeping track of HOW MANY BOOKS I CAN READ IN ONE YEAR or some such. It works for a while, but I find that the joy eventually drains out.

I’ve watched as this has happened to my witchcraft, my practice of tarot, my writing, my art, my practice of HEMA, and even my relationships (I’M GOING TO CALL ONE PERSON EVERY DAY TO SAY HELLO SO I CAN BE A BETTER FRIEND). I fall in love with a thing, I throw myself into it, I turn it into an obligation, and then I stop giving a shit because WORK.

It’s no good.

In the simplest terms, I’m not great at living from moment to moment. Everything I do I treat like a step within a larger project, and it sucks out the joy. It’s true that discipline is valuable, and it’s true that the disciplined usually reap the rewards. If you want to be a well-known professional writer, you need to write on a schedule, practice, produce, and make sacrifices where the rest of your time is concerned. If you want to look like a swimsuit model, you need to strictly track your diet and workout vigorously. There are no cheat days.

The difference between mediocrity and greatness is sacrifice, one of my music professors used to say.

She was right, but here’s the rub: those aren’t the only two options. It’s okay to choose something in the middle.

I’m going to try doing what feels good for a while, and not forcing myself into a set schedule on things that I love, just because some part of me thinks that I need a task list in order to be good at anything. As a high priestess, circle with my coven became a drag when I turned it into a chore and started neglecting other parts of my Craft life. Writing became a drag when I instituted unmanageable daily word counts. Fencing became a drag when I let the outcome of tournaments define the value of the thing itself. And my bullet journal is for fun, not for punishing myself when I ignore it for days on end.

It’s cool to make money writing and doing witch stuff, but when I have to, I eventually stop loving what I’m doing. On those days, I’m grateful for my meaningless paycheck-driven job that I can leave at the door every day. It turns out, at least for me, it’s not always a good thing to turn our passions into our jobs. Especially when we’re already not great at finding that balance between work and not-work.

Sorry, Marc Anthony.

12 thoughts on “An Ode to My Mindless Job, or I’m Glad I’m Not a Professional Witch

  1. hocuspocus13

    You shouldn’t work yourself up into too much of a lather…

    You’ve mastered it

    And now it is time to move on to another challenge

  2. Hedera Bindwood

    “Most small businesses fail within the first year,” someone close to me said once. Here it is 4 years later and I can safely say I am here specifically bc I already knew that the business of doing business strangulates the business. Thus I keep no inventory. Thus my parenting borders on “reportable”. Thus my writing happens in unpredictable “flare-ups”. Still, I rejoice in watching you question the successful navigation of your world. It’s how I know you will be okay. One day, you’ll swim back to me, and regale me w stories of attempts you’ve made to “productivize” the Ocean. I will always truly love who you are.

  3. Leslie

    I just have to say, you really tickle me! I think you’re quite hilarious whether you mean to be or not. Let me explain. I know who you are from watching your youtube videos off and on for years. The last I remember, I think you mentioned being in grad school and maybe reading tarot locally. When I stumbled across this article, I thought, “oh, what’s Thorn up to these days? and I wonder how that online dating thing turned out?”. Then I wondered what your “mindless job that you could leave at the door” was so I scrolled on over to your bio. I literally lol when I read you teach high school! I wondered if you were gonna get some clapback from the internet about calling a career in which you actually shape young minds, well, mindless. That’s hilarious to me! I should probably mention that I’ve raised 4 teens and have spent time working in the schools as well so I get it! Anyway that prompted me to read your post about being a teacher and I totally agree. I’ve always wondered about those teachers that are just so…I don’t know, relentlessly dedicated maybe? Then I saw a couple of them just lose it from letting their career consume their lives. Anyway, I’m rambling, somehow writing this comment has made it less funny and been slightly draining (ha, see what I did there?). I look foreword to whatever you put out there in the future and best wishes.

    Congrats on the book too!

  4. Wes Isley

    Hey gurl, nice website! And I totally do all of this, too. I guess we need to practice balance and find that tension between crazy to-do lists and remembering to breathe.

  5. Chris Mann

    I’ve really had to think about this one. I’m wondering if there should be a distinction between turning something one likes to do for recreation into a job vs turning one’s passion into a job. I tried turning a hobby into a career, and it didn’t turn out well. I hated it so much that it turned me off that hobby for good. That’s when I discovered what I really have a passion for. I think that would be great to do as a career. But since I have been unsuccessful in doing that so far, maybe I would regret it if I did. I don’t know.

    As for counting the books you read, that sounds like a great way to sap the enjoyment out of it. On the other hand, your inclination towards measuring results should be quite helpful in your career as a teacher when it comes to student evaluation. One of the worst ideas that teachers and students have is the idea that grades are “earned”. Grades are supposed to be a measurement of how well the student met the learning outcomes and goals of the course.

  6. David McKee

    I have found that there is a subtle balance required between Passion, Work, and Guilt. The problem I have, and It is certainly obvious that you have Thorn, is that you are interested in too many things! Ha Ha… The world is marvelous and life is too short – there are so many interesting things. This is where that sneaky thing called “guilt” likes to weasel its way into our psyche. “You are not doing enough!” “You haven’t been keeping up on this or that…” You get the picture. We “write down our goals” and then if we are not checking off those lines fast enough then we feel guilty. But guilt is never a real motivator, it saps our passion and can drive us into depression – which leads us to sit on the couch curled up in the fetal position and not get anything done. And that leads to more guilt.

    I have to remind myself that “Hey! I set these goals, and I can just as easily throw them out if they are not making me happy!” We also have to remember that, yes there are many things in the world that are fascinating, but we cant do them all, at least not all at once. It is hard to balance these things – but that is the Hermetic principle – balance, to stand between the pillars, even if those pillars are the many passions we have for life.

    Nobody ever said it would be easy – but the alternative is to be bored. And being bored is much, much harder.

    -David McKee

  7. I loved this post! And it’s so synchronistic I found it just two weeks after publishing a post with very similar thoughts, even mentioning Insurance and income lol

    I sometimes wonder what it would feel like every single person on Earth decided to only do what they’re passionate about. What would happen with our recycling stations? Public restrooms? It’s an interesting thought….

  8. I have a similar reaction to things I either have to or feel I have to do, so I end up procrastinating instead. Much as I may want to do the thing – read the new book, have a tidy(ish) house, write that blog post, have clean laundry – it involves effort, and I’m lazy. Amusingly, it tends to be circular over a period of days or weeks, and sometimes within one day.

    So there’ll be a book a friend lent me that I’ve had for ages and should really read and give back, but there’s so much other stuff I should do that reading feels like a luxury I can’t afford. So I start to go through a paperwork box and sort stuff into piles, but filing it properly would involve clearing my desk so it goes back into the box in ordered piles while I stack things on my desk in preparation for dealing with that, but then I need to put stuff that’s on my desk elsewhere and the things don’t really have a home yet because I need to sort out the cupboard in my bedroom first. But to do that I need to clear the crap in front of the cupboard, but that includes the mini chests of drawers I need to beeswax so I can tidy the top of my full-sized chests of drawers, which means I need to find time when my flatmate’s out so I can spread newspaper and bits of wood all over the living room floor. But I can deal with some of the other in-front-of-cupboard stuff, like cleaning my larp boots and putting a new coat of dubbin on. But my arms ache from work and this will make it worse, so I’m going to go read that book my friend lent me…

    Habitica (a website with associated app that treats your life like a role-playing game) has been wonderful for me in actually getting stuff done and doing the whole self-care/adulting thing. At least in part – I’m better at remembering the things I’ve promised other people to do, I’m looking after myself better (like actually brushing my teeth each night rather than not bothering when I’m too tired, and eating dinner on what I still consider to be a school night even when I’m not particularly hungry, as doing a manual labour job the next day having not eaten since lunch is a bad idea), and going to bed at a vaguely sensible time. But my to-do list on there scares me – there’s things that have been on these for years now, like sorting out that cupboard… But with my party of fellow-Habiticians/actual friends of mine, I shall eventually fight my way through it and continue to battle monsters through the power of chores!

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