Don’t Make Yourself Hurl: Notion Potion #2 by Jordan Castillo Price

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Welcome back to Notion Potion! I hope you were inspired by last month’s post about the way tiny steps toward a project can really add up. This month we’ll take a look at a creativity-bully that’s nearly impossible to shake: ourselves.

Prepare to be Punished

Watching reality shows is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. I love listening to people’s more-or-less unscripted dialog, and I’m always intrigued by the way a narrative is created later by what the show’s editors choose to omit, how they splice things together, and what sort of music is played in the background. (Usually if you mute the ominous music, whatever’s happening is not particularly ominous!)

So I was watching Work Out, a show about a personal trainer in Beverly Hills, and a 270-lb client came to her for help. This was intriguing! All the other clients at her gym were already in great shape. I was eager to see how they’d handle this more “real” person who I could relate to.
And then they worked her out until she puked.

I was disappointed. So disappointed, actually, it got me to wondering why I had such a strong reaction. What I decided was this: when we’re trying to improve ourselves, when we’re trying to build positive habits or shape our lives into the most joyous, creative version of itself it can be, we have plenty of internal and external resistance to overcome as it is. We have friends who laugh at our aspirations because they haven’t got the stones to go out and try new things themselves. We have the awkwardness of being new at something, a learning curve that’s no fun to trudge through. And sometimes we set aside time to start nurturing our creative selves, only to have a genuine emergency crop up and derail our plans.

Given that we face all these hurdles and more, is it really necessary to PUNISH ourselves into making a positive change?

Maybe weight loss isn’t an issue for you. But maybe you’ve always wanted to sing. Or to write poetry. Or paint some tiles at the ceramic shop or learn genealogy or create a computer game. You get the idea. That elusive pang, that tiny murmur that whispers to you, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I tried that?” is what I’m talking about.

It’s a very small voice, apt to slink away if it encounters negative feedback…and that includes a personal trainer barking at it to do crunches until it vomits.

There are so many ways in which we bully ourselves. Here are just a few.

  • Who am I to think I can write/sing/act/draw?
  • This is useless, I can’t learn new things.
  • I’m making a fool of myself
  • If I can’t work on this project two hours a day I might as well not bother.
  • Everyone will laugh at me

We Won’t Stand for That!

Okay, lets sass that damn bully back. Because it’s so used to getting its way, a little backtalk should stun it enough for you to get started and pick your way through that difficult beginning stage of your project and start to build positive momentum.

Who am I to think I can…? You’re a person. You have intrinsic value. If you want to pursue a creative goal, you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval.

I can’t learn new things. Learning curves suck, I guarantee you I can relate to that. See if you can tweak your goal from “knowing” how to do something to “learning” how to do something. Usually the first few sessions, when you’re a beginning beginner, are the hardest. Things get easier when you start getting the hang of what you’re learning.

I’m making a fool of myself. Most people are so self-centered they probably don’t even notice what you’re doing. And if some troll decides to seize on your efforts and go around mocking you to make themselves feel better, then you can count yourself among the elite group of creatives getting panned by critics.

If I can’t work on this project two hours a day I might as well not bother. This is the voice of the perfectionist, and it’s telling you lies! Last month I talked about how you can make progress toward your goal in as little as 15 minutes a day. This isn’t a race. It’s a journey. It’s better to take a year to finish a project (even if you know people who can do it in a month) than to never do it at all.

Everyone will laugh at me. Even if a few knuckleheads do, it’s likely there are other people who are admiring the fact that you had the courage to put yourself out there and try something new. You might even inspire them to start heeding the whisper of their secret dream.

So the next time your inner bully starts getting you down, see if you can spot that trash talk for what it is—a mere opinion that’s only got as much weight as you choose to give it—rather than presuming it’s true.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ruminations on the creative process. Please let me know if there are other creativity topics you’d like me to touch on in future columns! Looking for more inspiration? I have three years of writing podcasts archived at Packing Heat.

(I’ll be on the road when this column is posted, but I’ll pop in later in the day to say hello!)

Find out more about Jordan at JordanCastilloPrice.com or check out her latest releases at jcpbooks.com

35 thoughts on “Don’t Make Yourself Hurl: Notion Potion #2 by Jordan Castillo Price

  1. A.B. Gayle

    Hi JCP
    I’d like to put a plug in for your “Packing Heat” Podcasts. In a world where everything seems to come at a price, here’s one bit of “Price” that’s absolutely free!

    Groans at the terrible pun.

    But seriously, they are definitely worth checking out.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the podcasts! Ultimately they were too time-consuming to continue producing but I think the three years’ worth I did create are still nice to sift through for anyone looking for advice or inspiration.

      1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

        DANG IT…evidently something has happened to my Packing Heat blog. I think you can find some of the eps on iTunes for now, but the extensive show notes are gone at the moment. (I’m very unhappy about this. Hopefully customer service can help.)

    1. Karla

      I can’t remember who said it, but “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

      I’m the person who postpones doing things until I can do them perfectly.

      1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

        Perfectionism is going to get its own post, for sure. It’s a double-edged sword, because no, you don’t want to be half-assed about things, you want to do them as well as you can. But you can certainly be fabulous without being perfect, and as you say, the drive for perfection can cause you to not do anything at all!

  2. Tam

    “Most people are so self-centered they probably don’t even notice what you’re doing.”

    I always tell my daughter that. Trust me, no one notices if your shirt is green, they’re all too busy worrying everyone has noticed theirs is blue, which no one has. LOL

    We really can be our own worst enemies. It’s easy to look around at the superstars at anything and compare. I can’t be the next JK Rowling, Sean White, Meryl Street, Pablo Picasso so why bother. But not everyone is a superstar, there can only be so many people selling a million books a year. Only one person can win a gold medal or Oscar, but they need competition and much can be based on luck or serendipity.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I have a family member who’s always asking if I’m doing as well as JK Rowling yet…I wonder what that’s supposed to mean. I think it’s his only context of talking about being an author, but my insecure self can twist it to mean, “Oh, I’m only successful if I’m the top author on the planet?”

      I was pretty happy with quitting my day job as a milestone.

      1. Majken

        Can I just butt in to say that while I did like the last half of the Harry Potter series, I much prefer your books :)

  3. Kaje Harper

    I think quitting the day job is a pretty damned good milestone (…as I get ready to go off to mine, although fortunately I like mine.)

    That’s a great post – those negative voices are pernicious and sometimes loud. A family member asks me if I’m going to win the Booker prize someday – I’ve gone from “um, no , probably never in that class” to “Who the hell cares about the Booker prize anyway? That’s not my goal.” but it’s still kind of bravado.

    I think I have to remember “learning to” is supposed to be lifelong. I’ll probably never reach the point where I feel like I have this writing thing down cold, but that’s probably not the right goal anyway. “Learning to…” I’ll repeat that more. Thanks.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I need to remind myself that I actually enjoy the process of “learning to…” now and then. I’m not sure why, since I really do enjoy those moments of discovery and understanding and new mastery.

      I would find it difficult to let the Booker Prize comment roll off my back. It feels like a cutdown thinly disguised as a question or conversation-starter. Then again, I think a certain amount of thin-skinnedness comes with being a creative.

  4. Carter Quinn

    JCP – This is exactly the post I needed to see this week. I’ve been struggling with the time constraints, the getting-in-his-tortured-head-again issues for a few months now. It seems that this weekend I made a bit of a breakthrough. And with your post as ammunition against the evil voices in my head, I’m ready to soldier bravely on! Thank you!

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I’d love to hear more about your breakthrough if you have time to tell us, Carter. It’s so inspiring to me to read about that tipping point, that a-ha moment.

      I feel like I’m on the crux of a big change myself, of being in flow more often than not. At least I hope so.

  5. jeayci

    Reading this again today, I love it as much as I did yesterday but still have nothing useful to add to the conversation. :smile:

    Thank you, those are all excellent points worth remembering! Especially when I feel like this: :wallbash: I’m going to have to save this one to reread regularly. :grin:

  6. Ally Blue

    Nurse Ally coming out of lurkerdom to jump on the the topic you weren’t talking about — namely, the personal trainer who pushed a client to the point of vomiting. NOT GOOD. This is a BAD THING, people. Just in case anyone wondered. This does not make the cient weak. It makes her trainer a BAD TRAINER who is WAY less than professional and ought to just admit right now that they have no business training people who aren’t already in great shape.
    grrrrrrrrrr…..
    Yeah, Nurse Ally is riled up right now. I don’t like seeing dumbass musclehead idiots hurting people who trusted them to help. :mad:

    Rant over. As you were…
    (btw, Jordan, nice post about creativity, two thumbs up!)

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I was really pissed off at that trainer too, so thanks for validating that in a more professional way than me just going, “That’s so WRONG.”

      I met with a personal trainer recently and I picked someone who looked like she wouldn’t kick my ass…and I picked correctly. She was very unintimidating for me, and that’s what I needed.

  7. Amanda Corlies

    Late to the party as usual. Just got home from a long day to find this post and I had to say thanks again, Jordan, for lifting me out of a funk. I’ve been dealing with the learning curve issue, as you already know, plus the whole perfectionist’s two hour one, too. So, I’ve been feeling a little down and uncreative of late. It was nice to have the “don’t make yourself hurl” pep talk! Just what I needed.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      Hi Amanda!!!

      What I don’t understand is that in theory I love learning things. But in practice, I really hate not knowing how to do something, or doing something badly (even if it’s part of the learning process). For me it’s a self-consciousness thing. I hate being the suckiest one in the room, or on the net, or whatever.

      Once I took a table tennis course and I was the only one there who’d never touched a ping pong table before. What can I say, I grew up with 6 people in a 1-bathroom house and no finished basement. Although I was probably the worst player from beginning to end, I was definitely the one whose game and skill level advanced the most.

  8. Tameiki

    Interesting that you should use the Personal Trainer as an example for writing – or for doing anything new and/or learning.

    On April 1 I bought a membership to a gym and contracted with a Personal Trainer. After the first session I was in so much pain several Vicodin couldn’t touch it. The next session I told him, “Look, I’m paying for this time so we’re going to have a talk instead of working out today.” Thankfully, he listened. He really listened to what I had to say. I’m older, very out of shape, extremely intimidated by the very thought of exercising… Since then he’s watching me much closer, seeing where my limits are and only pushing me a little beyond what I think I can’t do. My workouts are seeing good results without me puking or hobbling out of the gym twice a week :)

    I’m very much looking forward to your post about perfectionism after this lovely and inspiring post here :)

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      You GO, Tam! I’m so proud of you for sitting that trainer down and talking to him, because I’ll bet you were tempted to say “screw this” and just stop going.

      I picked the trainer who worked with seniors a lot…I figured she wouldn’t have me up all night in agony after training. I also filled out the form telling her I found being at the gym intimidating. She said most people feel that way but they don’t articulate it.

  9. Kristi P

    :idea: Oh, do I ever have this problem! I tend to put things off because I hate to fail, because I hate to be disappointed with myself. THANK YOU for the reminder that the process has as much, if not more, value than the goal.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I can totally relate to that. You’d think failure equaled death the way I react to it. Telling myself I’m “practicing” or “learning” or that I can throw stuff away if it sucks can be helpful for that paralysis.

      Although sometimes I’m just resistant to working on my projects for no good reason. Thankfully today I’m getting back into writing after a couple days recovering from my vacation. I guess I just needed to start eating and sleeping the way I’m accustomed to.

  10. Angelia Sparrow

    There are two stories I like to tell writers who have the “I must work 2 hours a day” on this. One is Victor Milan, who has written 40 books, simply by making sure he writes 5 words a day, every day.
    The other is James Joyce, found slumped over his desk by a friend and he has accomplished 7 words. His friend says it’s wonderful. But Joyce protests “I don’t know what order they go in!”

    There are days when I sit down and come up 2000 words later for air. There are days I do everything but write.
    I don’t have the “I must devote 2 hours or I’m scum” “I must quit my day job or it’s not worthwhile.” My biggest fear is that I’m tapdancing for myself.

    My driving muse is a high-iron bitch. And that is fine. She pushes me into things I could not otherwise do. But she knows when to back down.

    1. Jordan Castillo Price Post author

      I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how that 5-word method could work. That would equal about 1800 words per year…so I’m presuming the 5 words tend to launch him into additional writing more often than not.

      Thanks for introducing me to him. I poked around on his blog for a while, he seems like an interesting guy.

      1. Angelia Sparrow

        Vic’s a sweetie.

        And yeah, the 5 words often launches him into more. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still 5 words more than yesterday and there’s always tomorrow.

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