The Story Economy Blog

A Gift From Me: The Pep Talk About Low Level Crap

holiday giftI thought about just sending a holiday e-card this week.

That would have been a whole lot prettier.

But instead, I thought I’d go ugly, and write about the lowest level, most annoying, hateful, and frustrating crap. Because this is actually the best present I could give you.

I’ll back up.

Monday afternoon, around 4:32, I had a meltdown.

A freaking m e l t d o w n.

It felt like every single unresolved thing in my life was coming back for me. The final straw was hearing that an essay I thought was accepted for publication was now rejected.

But before that . . . an unwieldy, complicated book project that I tried to get information on for the better part of the year suddenly fell back in my lap, due, you know, immediately.

And then, a few different clients came back to me in uncharacteristic ways, asking for things that left me confused and frustrated.

A nagging fear from the spring resurfaced. As did my sleeping problems from the summer. And my husband and I started playing our favorite game again, the one we’ve tried really hard to keep out of reach, high up on the shelf, called: “Who has it crappier?”

And the deadlines: the deadlines started piling like crazy, no one seeming to care that I have two little kids who just want to spend time with their mama who is constantly, constantly, constantly working, and maybe the holidays were a chance for that, except I have to earn a living, so complaining about people wanting to pay me money seems the most ungrateful thing ever. (Clients reading: ignore that run-on sentence; I love you and I will meet your deadlines.)

Do you see what I mean though? Low level shit. Coming up and flying at me from every possible corner. Our main sewer line to the street even backed up on Sunday ‚Äì tree roots clogging it. What better metaphor is there than roots reaching up to strangle the flow? I seriously couldn’t make that up if I tried.

This all happened because I decided that I was taking a chunk of every morning to write fiction. Remember my epic day I wrote about last week? That’s a huge part of what it was about for me. And that was the decision that came out of the day. To take this new creative pursuit seriously.

I know, I haven’t mentioned I’m writing fiction, because it still doesn’t yet seem real or believable. Me? Write fiction? What do I know about fiction? I’m a copywriter. I have a family to support. What a pipe dream. I’m still not convinced myself that it’s real or that I have any ability whatsoever.

So of course, as soon as I made the decision (which made me giddy with joy), the low level stuff came back for me to distract me and keep me spinning in negative energy. Just the way Steven Pressfield says it does, in The War of Art—which I happened upon Saturday and started reading, long before I recognized that low level stuff was about to descend.

But I am not falling for it.

And you shouldn’t either. Because I guarantee you, the minute you decide to do something, whether it’s start a business, change your focus, start exercising, make art, fix your marriage, kick a habit . . . whatever . . . the low level stuff will come for you, in ways that you never could have even seen. The most stupid stuff. The most frustrating situations. The biggest disappointments. And it will probably cluster and try to drag you down. Just like those tree roots.



This is the best holiday gift I could possibly give you: to tell you that it’s normal, that it’s not a sign that you suck, that it’s not the universe out to get you, and that you need to kick that dirty-ass, lying, conniving, good-for-nothing, low level, tree root bullshit to the curb and just keep going.

Because I am. I’m still claiming time for the work I want to do.

How about you?

And of course, may your December celebrations be lovely and bright. I’ll see you in 2015.


  • Beth

    Posted by Beth on 12/17/14 2:08pm

    Hey, I had a meltdown on Sunday! There must have been something in the air!

    Thanks for writing this. It's always so helpful to know that we're not alone when the seas get stormy.

    As Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." Not to conflate our situations with war. But … well, you know.

    • Judi Ketteler

      Posted by Judi Ketteler on 12/17/14 2:12pm

      Beth, absolutely! And Pressfield *does* compare creative pursuits to going to war! It's an apt metaphor. Thanks for writing. You're definitely NOT alone!
      -- Judi

  • Ally

    Posted by Ally on 12/17/14 2:24pm

    Thanks for the reminder of this important lesson Judy. No matter how annoying it is normal and we're all dealing with shit - clients included. I LOVE that the fiction writing makes you giddy with joy. I just read a great post about how you should assess items in your life and ask "does it spark joy" but based on what you wrote I'm extended this simple test to all areas of my life. There is always going to be annoying crap, but at least there can be joy too!

    • Judi Ketteler

      Posted by Judi Ketteler on 12/17/14 2:27pm

      That's a great "test" Ally. Thanks for sharing!
      -- Judi

  • Melissa Scrimo

    Posted by Melissa Scrimo on 12/18/14 4:37pm

    I once heard a wise person say "obstacles are put in your way as a test to see how bad you really want something" - so look at the small stuff as the stairs you have to climb to get to your destination. :)

    • Judi Ketteler

      Posted by Judi Ketteler on 12/18/14 6:42pm

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa! That's a great way to look at it.
      -- Judi

  • Just Say It. (Preferably Before It Gets Weird.) | Ms. Mindbody

    Posted by Just Say It. (Preferably Before It Gets Weird.) | Ms. Mindbody on 12/18/14 6:36pm

    […] that have perhaps been simmering bust out in a full boil. (My brilliant friend Judi wrote about it here.) So I switched my subjects for all of you who may be experiencing some of the same kind of […]

  • The Voice Has to Shut Up Now | Judi Ketteler

    Posted by The Voice Has to Shut Up Now | Judi Ketteler on 02/11/15 1:32am

    […] little voice isn‚Äôt the same as the voice of Resistance, which I‚Äôve written a lot about. Unlike the destructive, low level voice of Resistance, the ‚ÄúI can do what I want‚Äù […]

Leave A Comment

Related Posts