The Bitch Slap: Own Your Fucking Owl

Last night, I attended a fundraiser for two organizations I adore who have partnered in the fight – and for assistance in the cases that the fight is lost – against pediatric cancer. Une Belle Vie, a cremation urn company here in Denver, and The Morgan Adams Foundation, a nonprofit that funds pediatric cancer research, came together to create a fund that helps parents who have lost a child to cancer and need assistance with laying their child to rest. It’s real – it happens every day – so we gathered at a place that proved to be a hootenanny of a good time to live it up and raise some money to provide some relief for people who need it way more than you and I hopefully ever will.

The destination was a place called Canvas & Cocktails, which (you guessed it) lets you consume alcohol AND play with paint – color me tickled. Nearly forty of us offered a donation of $65 and then gathered around our easels with our allotted paints, brushes, and libations of choice and got to work on a step-by-step guided lesson on painting an owl.

Here’s the owl:

The owl bitch slap

The instructor guided us first to create the box in the lower left hand corner. I mixed some paint, hit the canvas with my “medium brush,” and well…that’s about where I got frustrated. Fuck this owl. Fuck the owl, the leaves, and its stupid little curly-q decorations.

So we’re getting slapped: you need to own your fucking owl.

When we wake up every day, we pay the price of admission to life. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we’ve paid. We’re in, and anyone who wants to tell you differently can get bent. Every day is your goddamned owl and it’s entirely up to you what you’ll do with it.

There are some things I know and own:

  • I am a shitty artist. I can paint the walls in my house but I have no “vision” – the Sistine Chapel ain’t coming from my brushes.
  • I have never done anything that someone told me to do (especially that I didn’t want to do) WELL. I did it adequately (and reluctantly).
  • Life is too short to live someone else’s vision, much less paint someone else’s owl.

Own your fucking owl. Over the next two hours, I had one helluva good time painting Apathetic Hipster Owl (complete with horn-rimmed glasses and social statement letter in scarlet hues). Someone else painted what I dubbed Acid Owl.

And then there was the Anti-Owl.

While tons of people in the room opted to go through the instructor-led owl creation process, there were plenty who said fuck that owl and set out to accomplish their own vision. And it’s fine for those who wanted to create a paint-by-process owl. Sometime’s it’s just fun to go through the steps. Yet I think most of us are better suited to our own rendition of whatever our owl might be on any given day.

We live in a world that’s ripe with people who will line up to tell you what you should be doing and just how you should go about doing it. Which I think is precious, because these are the people who I just want to kick in the junkola. Except they’re not worth a kick in the junkola because they’re never going to understand that they have to own their fucking owl. Owning your owl is about living life on your terms and embracing the process. There is no X-step program that can get you to being a self-actualized human and there’s certainly no two-hour process that can turn you into an artist. When you own your (fucking) owl, you embrace the responsibility to pick your colors, choose your path, and if you very well feel like it, you tell the owl to beat it and you paint something else entirely.

I think we all forget way too often that upon waking up each day, we’ve paid that price of admission. The fund I chose to help raise money for didn’t make any less money by my choice to color outside the lines. In fact, its importance in my mind was reinforced by the fact that I decided to own my fucking owl and experience the evening on my terms. It doesn’t matter three fine frog’s ass hairs if I painted an owl that looked like the one the instructor was demonstrating. I had fun, I laughed, the fund raised some money, and I left knowing that I didn’t phone it in.

Quit painting someone else’s owl. And remember – you don’t have to paint a fucking owl at all. I spent the past six months of my life writing a book where I was bound and determined to NOT be that “should” author. You know, the one that makes it sound easy – like every goddamned thing is a step-by-step process and once you follow the steps, BAM! Instant success! Life’s not like that and since business is but a mere subset of life, business sure shit isn’t either. I figured that the best I could do in this book is offer readers:

  • Who the hell I am
  • Why the hell there’s a book with my name on the cover
  • Here’s what I’ve experienced and know to work
  • Here are people JUST LIKE YOU (real business owners, not the Zappos and Southwest Airlines and Disney jackwads we’re exhausted hearing about) and how they got things done

There are no juvenile workbooks, but there are suggestions you can take or leave. It’s a book designed to help you own your fucking owl because god knows – I’ve never done well with the shoulds and other associated orders. I’m thinking most people who will pick up what I’m putting down aren’t much a fan of the paint-by-numbers Owl’s Guide to Life, either.

So, yeah. You’ve bought your ticket and there’s no one who can tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing and what fruits your labors will produce. Whatever your destiny in this life, whether rock star, owner of a dry cleaning shop or any iteration in between, it’s your fucking owl. Wake up, pet the sonofabitch, don’t let it get away with biting you, and most importantly FEED it. We’re pussies if we let the owl own us and tell us how it’s going to turn out in the end. And y’know what? If the owl isn’t right, trade it’s ass in on a hippopotamus. And then own your fucking hippopotamus.

You’ve been slapped.


53 comments
Jay
Jay

Going to own stalking your blog! Great post!

Karen
Karen

Wow, thanks for the slap. Guess I needed it! I realize I've been wrestling with owning my own owl (or wolf as the case may be!), and trying to paint by numbers someone elses owl. Crapola on canvas! Sheesh I know better than that, wtf? This brought me racing back in time to when my dad (bless his heart as he meant well) bought home paint by number sets of paintings by several masters for my mom. She was an artist. Painted absract art that was becoming popular in the 60s, and my dad didn't get her art and wanted to help her paint nice pictures (I guess so she wouldn't be hurt or embarrassed by her abstract expressions). She gave up her art and resigned herself to painting paint by number (on "real canvas") Monets, Van Goghs, etc., which my dad framed and proudly hung  in our house. He'd show off her beautiful art work while her real art remained hidden in the basement. Sigh. So thanks for the reminder to paint your own owl or whatever, no matter what anyone else thinks of the end result. It is still your creation, and that is the important thing. Best wishes for the books!

Rochelle
Rochelle

When brought into the "artists studio" on the Disney lot to be taught how to draw a character by a "real Disney animator" I proceeded to figure out the cost analysis of how effective it was to have each employee give a percentage of their time to the "attraction". Turns out Disney had created a really cheap distraction for paying customers and divided by the number of people in the room and the estimated payscale of the employee, they were making BANK. That was my Owl, and I owned it. I can't draw for shit, but at least I know what I AM good at, and I bet I was the only schmuck who didn't attempt to draw a fuc*ing donald duck.

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, Glad that you're back. I've had to self flagellate in your absence. It was fun. But it lacked the Napoletano touch.  Last year I had cataracts removed from both eyes and some special lenses inserted. For the first time in almost sixty years I can see things I didn't even know were there. I'm very owlish now. And talking of owls and all that jazz.... Are you familiar with the work of Ricardo Semler at Semco in Brazil?  If so, you'll know why I mention him. If not, read up on him. He's created a whole forest full of his own special owls......and every other bird you could name. More importantly, he's enabled thousands of employees to be their own owls too. The real class is in the Southern hemisphere y'know. Hoot for fun Regards Leon

HeatherO
HeatherO

L O V E IT! Can you just imagine how cool the world would be if people didn't waste so much energy worrying about what others think of their owls? I have 2 teen boys and my oldest truly doesn't care. He is awesome! The other one, well, we are working on that :) I am sending the link to this to him (he will read it just because you use the word fucking in the title:) Thanks!

Dollydoormatdoesntlivehere
Dollydoormatdoesntlivehere

Thank you!!! I'm pissed off at a situation right now and was starting to soften before reading your blog. Fuck NO,@JackieDotson:disqus I'm not going to back down and right now my owl is big and scary and  wants to swoop down and do some big-ass owl damage...like eat the pipsqueak chicken shit mouse (i.e. neighbor!) You're so right...we do not have to conform and paint inside the lines. I'm unique, you're unique and for all those stupids fucks who paint inside the lines, we don't give a HOOT! I'm one of those "artistic types" who often lacks the "bitch slap" mentality...I love it when forces unite :) Woooohhhhhh, I feel great!

Marty
Marty

I love your fucking owl and I love how you are not giving a shit about whether people like you or not. That is what truly makes you awesome.  You tell it like it is and you know what fuck everyone that doesnt like my owl :P

JackieDotson
JackieDotson

Own it baby! I love it. Own your fucking owl. I'm going to say this all day. I like owls, now I can own one. 

G Mack
G Mack

You may be right that you are a shitty artist with no vision, though I think many here would disagree.  However, if you go to a party and you don't want to learn anything, you do exactly that.  I would doubt that the owl would learn to fly if it decided to hippopotamus instead.  Sometimes to learn we need to follow the instructions provided, then branch out and express the inner owl after we have some foundation.  I think you did not care to learn anything about painting, and therefor learned nothing.  You had fun, but that does not make your efforts to color outside the lines anything noteworthy.   Yet, I like the sentiment you express here, and I think your owl actually looks good (maybe you followed some instruction?).

The Redhead
The Redhead

I only get to indulge in nonconformity...BECAUSE I OWN MY FUCKING OWL! :) (great seeing you again, Bill!)

J Do
J Do

I've learned to say, "Fuck yes, that's my owl!"  Your post reminds me what a great barometer this is for whether a person is worth spending time with our not because if they don't get your owl, or mock your owl because it's not their concept of the owl, it ain't an owl.  Well, fuck 'em. Thanks for the reminder.

J.J. McBride
J.J. McBride

You go girl! I love it, it's fun and too many jag-offs need to hear it in that tone of voice to actually get it. If not, Fuck em and live your own damn life.

Stormy Smith
Stormy Smith

I want that damn hippopotamus! Another really great slap - and much needed.  A quick sappy THANK YOU is going out to you Red - I've been reading this blog for the last six months and without the constant push to go out and own my own damn life I don't think I would have finally taken the leap to move into Public Relations from my current Account Service role in my agency.  I still don't know if I've landed the job, but I put my ass on the line and went for it.  Stay tuned...fingers crossed that in a few weeks I'm moving across the building!

james
james

excellent advice. i don't give two hoots for the "followers."

Renee
Renee

Wait...I need a moment to wipe a tear from my eye. Okay, I'm good. One-size-fits-all programs tick me off to no end. I don't care if you're talking about business or raising kids, both of which I do 24 hours a day. Everyone has this "miracle solution" and you know what? It doesn't work like that. The paint-by-number owl works great for those just learning the steps. I don't know how to paint an owl. I'll follow your numbers until I figure it out. Then you'd better believe my owl's going to be pimping in a way yours has never been. If we could take that philosophy to life, we'd all be a helluva lot better off.

Shirls
Shirls

Love your owl and love your post even more. I'm so glad you're back Erika, I've missed your searing truths. And, ye gods, I see my granddaughter likes you too. It figures - she also tells it how it is.

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

Thanks for this, I have been stuck writing a page all day. I agree with Dave nothing gets created out of a vacuum we need to know the rules to break them and we all have influencers. Where the magic happens it is always when we make the process our own "Good artists borrow, great ones steal"To relentless thievery. 

Cherry
Cherry

I enjoy posts that come out of every day events, like fundraisers, because those lessons or analogies or metaphors have more meaning to me.  Never expected one about a fucking owl but now I know better. I, too, hate shoulds, don't work well with autocratic or, sometimes democratic authority. Do. not. tell. me. what. to. do.  But interesting to note my reaction to painting an owl. At first for sure, I would have done what the instructor said because painting is one place where my lack of confidence outweighs my dislike of being told what to do. But would not have done curlyques.

Robert
Robert

"Own Your Fucking Owl" Carve it on a cliff face. Letters 20 feet tall. Make them Flaming.

D.T. Pennington
D.T. Pennington

I'm afraid to ask what you think of fundamentals.  I'm all for figuring out my own method, most writers are. But where would we be as writers if we didn't, at least for a short while, stop to understand the process, the method to the madness? Sure, every writer eventually makes up their own words to define situations. Could we still make up words that make sense without an understanding of how the rest of our lexicon came to be?  Giving brushes and a canvas to some folks with the instruction to "just make art" doesn't always compute. Some of us actually want to know how owls are made, want guidance and comprehension of brushstrokes.  I get that there is a pride in learning from our own mistakes. Is it worth it to again make the mistakes that others have learned from? 

Bill Wasinger
Bill Wasinger

Love it!   Erika, is that a "Scarlet A" on your owl or a "Fuckin' A"?

Rachel Lawley
Rachel Lawley

Thank you. I needed this today. Bad. Thank you. Now to print this and read it every morning...

Wookiesgirl
Wookiesgirl

You never fail to amaze and amuse me. Thank you for your honesty. It's a breath of fresh air, as always. And today? Chica, I needed it. Hugs and love, Wookiesgirl

Mike Masin
Mike Masin

This is such a great life lesson.  Because if you don't own the owl it can own you. The things that owls own are called prey; that's not part of my plan. Thanks for the reminder to be the hunter -- and I have to sneak this in... make life more than a hoot! m2

Ian [EagerExistence]
Ian [EagerExistence]

Nice way to make a life-lesson out of a paint-by-numbers fundraiser. Bravo.

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