Jar of Unhelpful Thoughts

01/31/18
HSP Recommendations / QI

jar

Dear reader, this here is my Jar of Unhelpful Thoughts. It has a permanent place on my desk, next to my pen mug. I shall now tell its story.

I used to be a writer who loved having written but for whom the process of writing itself could be absolute agony. The reason it was absolute agony was the constant stream of self-doubt playing in my head: I was so sure that what I wrote would be crap anyway and people would laugh at it that I found it near impossible to write a sentence. Yet, in order to write anything, you have to eventually write sentences, so I would sit there in my absolute agony, second guessing myself, critiquing every single word before I’d even gotten it down to paper, and hating it once it was there.

Yuh, unpleasant, that.

I mentioned this to my lovely SO when I was struggling with an academic article. He nodded and said that I needed a jar. Huh? Yes, a jar. With a lid. Whenever an overly critical thought arises that hinders your work, write it down on a piece of paper, put it in the jar, and close the lid. Repeat as needed.  You have now noted the thought, dealt with it, and even kept it, should you feel the need to revisit the thought again. (Apparently this is a NLP sort of thing) I think I snorted, but then thought, heck, I’ll give it a try as simply trying not to think those thoughts certainly didn’t do the trick. So, I bought a jar.

Over the next articles I worked on I also kept steadily filling the jar with pieces of paper that said things like “I’m useless at this”, “Fairly certain this article doesn’t even have a point”, “This will be rejected anyway so a bit pointless really” and “Reviewer 2 will have a field day with this”. There were things I wrote down more than once, and there were things I wrote down in various reformulations. But: by article three I had run out of these thoughts. I kid you not. Whenever an unhelpful thought began to form, my brain went yeah, you already thought that, it’s right there in the jar. You can take it out and check if you want (I did check a few!). And I was done. I realise this might sound odd, but I’ve honestly never had to struggle with those thoughts again. There’s no agony anymore, just steady-ish work.

My unhelpful thoughts now know their place. It’s in the jar.

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