Julie Powell Interviews and a Discussion of the Psychological Benefits of Projects

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

A couple of months ago I wrote about Julie Powell – the real Julie from the Julie & Julia movie (you can read my earlier post here). Julie’s year long cooking project, and the blog she wrote about her project, is such a cool example of how quirky, creative (very broadly defined) personal “projects” or life experiments can help people break out of stuck points in their lives.

I’m writing another post about Julie Powell because I wanted to write some more about the psychological benefits of these types of projects.

Also, I watched the Julie & Julia movie over the weekend and I wanted to say to people who have only seen the movie that the Julie character from the movie is very different to the real Julie Powell (or at least how the real Julie Powell expresses herself in the Julie/Julia project book and in interviews).

The real Julie Powell is far more interesting and well… real… than her character in the movie. Here’s a review of the movie, that I completely agree with, that talks about this issue (I did still enjoy the movie).

So if you’re interested in Julie Powell’s story (or interested in potentially doing your own quirky project of some sort) then I recommend checking out info other than the movie e.g., the Julie & Julia book, or.here are some links to mp3 interviews.

1. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amateurgourmet/2009/06/04/Interview-with-Julie-Powell

2. https://www.amherst.edu/media/view/129747/original/PowellInterview.mp3

To download the interviews, right click the link you want and choose “save link as”

My favorite interview excerpt

Here’s a little interview excerpt I particularly liked about the psychological benefits of personal development projects…

“I think everyone, well maybe not everyone but everyone I know, comes to a point in their lives where they feel locked into a life that they’re not happy with, when they feel at sea, they don’t know what the next choice is. (The book) is just chronicling my particular moment of breaking out of there, finding the crazy thing, finding the rabbit hole to go down to get to a new place. To me the book is about how everyone can do that. It’s not so much about the cooking… It’s an example of a universal story. I don’t want anyone to think I… climbed Mt Everest with no arms or something. I just did what everybody does at some point, which is break out and find a new way.”

My View of the Psychological Benefits of Quirky Projects

– If you’ve lost confidence in your ability to take on a challenge, stick with it, and complete it, then a small project or life experiment is a good way to start building that confidence up.

Often when people have been struggling with a psychological issue (e.g. depression) they lose confidence in themselves. A project isn’t a good substitute for treatment but might be part of getting your confidence back (or gaining confidence in yourself for the first time).

– Here’s another quote I liked from interview 1.
It’s about the unexpected ripple effects the project had on her life.

“(If I hadn’t got the book deal)… I still think my life would be changed by the experience of having committed to something really crazy and just done it. And the experience of the blogging. Having people… that confidence and that eye opening experience that you can do something that’s crazy and it does make a difference (in your life) and it does cause ripples, and you can do more than you think you can.”

To make changes happen in you life (changes in how you think and feel and how other people respond to you), you need to try new behaviour and observe what happens. As Julie says, generally speaking… you can do more than you think you can.

– Writing about the project allowed her to find her voice. Both the cooking and the writing allowed her to express her creativity and her individual personality.

– When she found her voice – when she put her real, unique self out into the world – lots of people liked her a lot. The people who resonated with her, found her, because she put her thoughts and experiences out into the world for people to read about. Not everybody judged her positively but plenty of people did.

I often think to myself that as a therapist I get to see some of the best aspects of the people I work with, because in therapy people express the true selves. Most of people I see for therapy don’t have any idea that who they really are, is REALLY cool. In our therapy sessions, clients express parts of themselves they keep hidden from the rest of the world, often because they’re afraid of revealing who they really are. Its very inspiring to me to get to see people’s tremendous strengths, their hopes and dreams, and their vulnerabilities. People who show both strength and vulnerability tend to be very attractive to other people, and that’s what I see in people in therapy sessions. I think authors like Julie Powell, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love), and Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Tea), to name a handful, are very skillful at expressing that combination of strength and vulnerability, and think that ability is part of why their books are best sellers.

– I like Julie’s comment that she wouldn’t have stuck it out and completed the project if it wasn’t for her readers cheerleading her on. Everybody needs cheerleaders. And also the ability to be their own cheerleader.

– I like that she wasn’t “cognitively dependent” on Julia Child’s opinion of her project.

Julie & Julia unabridged audiobook – free

You can get the Julie & Julia unabridged audiobook book, read by Julie Powell for free, using this free trial download offer from audible.

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