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How can you continue to create when you're plagued with self-doubt? How can you let go of your fears and trust your creativity in order to move forward as a writer? In today's show, Jen Louden shares her lessons learned about writing and self-care.
In the intro, I talk about Publish Drive's new move into the subscription model. I talked to CEO Kinga Jentetics who said, “PublishDrive no longer considers itself an ebook distributor. It is now a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company with payment for services, not for royalties.” After a decade of indie authors using royalty split with established vendors, PD is shaking things up. With the new tools on offer, the model will be more profitable for those authors who go all in. Interesting times!
In other news, one author writes a viral article about how she failed to understand the economic model of publishing and ended up spiraling downward in terms of advances [Medium] and Dean Wesley Smith posts a response on the trad vs. indie financial models [The Math] and then again addressing specific concerns [Math Additions]. I began my own financial education in my late 20s and continue to read books and listen to podcasts on money, investments, business, and economics every week. It's important as no one else can learn this stuff for you. Creatives, empower yourself!
Plus, Descript has bought Lyrebird [Techcrunch] and since I have talked about both companies in my AI focus this year, I'm very excited! I use Descript for transcription and audio editing, and with Lyrebird, they are introducing Overdub, AI-generated voice editing, and also Voice Double in the future [Descript blog]. Could this be the AI-generated audiobook software of the future?
In my personal update, lessons learned from 8 years as an author entrepreneur, and notes from my book research trip to Lisbon.
Today's show is sponsored by Reedsy. Do you need a professional editor or book cover designer? Do you need help with marketing, publicity or advertising? Find a curated list of vetted professionals at the Reedsy marketplace, along with free training on writing, self-publishing and book marketing. Check it out at: www.TheCreativePenn.com/reedsy
Jen Louden is the international best-selling author of eight non-fiction books on well-being, whole living, and creativity as well as a coach, professional speaker, and retreat leader.
You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- Trusting ourselves to be able to do the work of writing
- Being a new runner and learning lessons about writing from that
- Staying where your words are
- Balancing discipline with looking after ourselves
- Choosing ourselves over the approval of others
- Claiming our own experiences
- Dealing with the fears that come up around sharing our stories
- The dangers of forcing books into form rather than being authentic
- Retreats, their structure and their benefit for writers
- Working with an editor when we get too close to the work
You can find Jennifer Louden at JenniferLouden.com and on Twitter @jenlouden
Transcript of Interview with Jennifer Louden
Joanna: Jen Louden is the international best-selling author of eight non-fiction books on well-being, whole living, and creativity as well as a coach, professional speaker, and retreat leader.
Hi Jen, welcome to the show.
Jen Louden: I love that ‘International’. It makes me feel like a spy or something.
Joanna: Well you’re for sale here in the UK. So you’re International
Jen Louden: I have books in 9 languages. So I think it’s fair to say that, but I just love the way you said it. It made me feel really cool.
Joanna: Great. So you have been writing and publishing and doing all kinds of things for ages.
Tell us more about how you got into writing.
Jen Louden: I always wrote or I always wanted to write. I can remember sitting in high school starting short stories then occasionally finishing them and I always was creative.
I was always making movies and taking photographs and to me being creative was the whole point of life. I actually ended up at USC film school and thought I would be a director. But I realized pretty quickly I didn't quite have the chutzpah for that.
And then thought I'd be a cinematographer but I a have learning disabilities and in the 80s being a cinematographer was really technical and there were measurements and all kinds of things I couldn't do.
So I fell back on writing kind of almost like well, this is something I can do. I pursued screenwriting fairly unsuccessfully for a while and out of that failure and that frustration came my first book and it really quite a beautiful moment of grace.
The title came to me and when that book became a best-seller it really started my whole career and I just kept following it wherever the next book idea lead.
Joanna: And in case listeners don't know, what was that book?
Jen Louden: That was The Woman's Comfort Book. That was published in 1992. It's still in print and it still sells a few thousand copies a year, which I find amazing.
So when I look back on that time in my life and I look back on that title and I look back on what that book has done for so many women and for myself as well, I think it was my psyche speaking to me and saying you need to learn how to be compassionate with yourself. You need to learn what healthy self-care is.
I was such a driven, ambitious 26-year-old that I think the only way my psyche was going to get across to me was if it was through doing something that we would get me out in the world. I wanted a career. I wanted to be a writer so badly.
Joanna: And it's interesting because I think the film school, screenwriting is a pretty harsh world, isn't it?
Did that inform you? It's almost a complete opposite to go into self-care.
Jen Louden: It is. I think it beat me down.
When I started at USC I was 19. I'd never lived in a city. I didn't know anyone in Los Angeles. I was so out of my element. I was surrounded by brilliant ambitious people and I was a surfer chick from Florida. So it was very hard. I didn't have the strength of character or the inner resources to really deal with it and I went through a lot of depression. A lot of struggle.
I look back at that young woman, I think oh my gosh. I wish I could go give you a hug and tell you it's all going to be okay, but of course, we don't know that we were 19,
Joanna: Of course you've been writing now for all these years and. Yet as I know as well, we learn things as we go along and I think when people are just starting out writing they think you just learn this one set of things that that's it.
What have you learned about writing that might surprise people?
Jen Louden: Just literally before you called me I sent off the almost final draft of my newest book to my editor. I just pushed send and then sat back to talk to you.
So what have I learned right this week?
I learned how much I forget that I can trust myself. I forget. It's like we have amnesia. When I had a week and a half to turn around the last edits and I went, Oh my God, I can't do it. I'll never be able to do it. I'm going to conclude blow it. I'm going to make it worse.
It was as if I was that 19-year-old young woman again instead of someone who's been writing professionally since the early 90s. And so I think that part of what we have to develop as writers that we don't really think about a lot, is how to work with our minds and how to work with our hearts so that we can do the inner work in the midst of those moments of pressure, in the midst of those moments when the characters aren't talking to us or the ideas aren't flowing or the deadlines are really tight.
I didn't know that for a really long time and I still forget it. I went out for a run in the midst of all that and sometimes before I go for a run – I mostly run on trails and I live at elevation and it's fairly taxing – and I'll have this low-grade thought. I won't be able to do it this time, like suddenly my legs aren't going to work or something and there's nothing at stake. It's just going for a run.
I stopped in the middle of the run and went, Oh, wow. I don't trust myself to show up and do the run and the same thing with finishing this last draft. I don't trust myself. The activating that self-trust, which I teach so much of, but teacher heal yourself.
I think working with our minds that's something we don't talk about maybe enough.
Joanna: That's true and it's interesting with trust. I totally agree with you, but if people are just starting out, how can they trust themselves? If somebody listening has no reason to trust themselves yet and they haven't proved themselves any of their writing ability.
How do they get past that?
Jen Louden: I think the first thing is you have to learn to every single day that you show up on the page to detach what you trust from what you create. Any kind of creative pursuit there’s no standards.
You and I could spend the rest of this podcast talking about our favorite books and invariably I will have a book that I'm like, oh my God, this book is so amazing and you'll be like you’ve got to be kidding me. You liked that? It was trash. I couldn't even get through it.
So we're working in a medium that has no standards. So if we put our self-trust, if we put our ability to show up over there we're screwed.
We have to put it where we know we can trust ourselves. Can I trust myself to stay in the chair for an hour without clicking away? Can I trust myself to calm my breathing down and really imagine what that room looks like, where the characters are. Can I go back in time to that moment in my life I'm writing my memoir about and make an inventory of smells and sights and sounds.
Yes. I can trust myself to do that. We have to learn to put our attention, not on the output. It’s not that we don't want to be brilliant. Of course, we do. That's never going to go away.
But if we keep focusing on that oh my gosh, it is so impossible because what is brilliant? What is successful? What is enough?
Joanna: And it's interesting because you have a lovely picture on your website of you out for a run, which is fantastic. I always really respect runners because I'm not a runner and I know that there are a lot of barriers to people running and I feel that this is the same with writing.
Since running is so much a part of your life, how does it relate to both your creativity and your self-care?
Jen Louden: I think the most important thing is I'm a new runner. I have not quite been running for four years. I started running when I moved to Colorado at the ripe age of 52 and just completed and won third place in what they call a heavy half marathon, running from Aspen, which is about 7900 feet up to 10,000 and back down. I won a $75 gift certificate. I am so proud of that. I put my little ribbon on my bulletin board.
So it's very new to me and what it has taught me is I can do so much more. I am capable of doing so much more. It's made me so much tougher but not in a puffed-up, push yourself until you fall over way, but in this steady way.
Stay where your feet are. That’s one of the things I learned from a running coach. Stay where your feet are. Stay where your words are. And it's taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I'm running down that mountain in that Aspen half marathon and it's hot suddenly and it's an exposed hillside and I'm looking down on this big giant airport filled with very rich people's private planes, which pisses me off because it's so bad for the planet to fly a private plane. And my knees are hurting and I'm like how can I be here with this and still find the pleasure in it? Still find the interest and the joy? That is directly transferred to my writing.
Joanna: This is the thing. I don't have an issue with it, but I struggle with self-care as well, which is that you need some discipline to get past that pain. You need some discipline to get to the page and yet the word discipline to me is like boot camp and drill instructor and it's not self-care.
How do we balance discipline with looking after ourselves?
Jen Louden: I've tried to replace discipline with devotion. Can I find the love for my writing? And can I let that pull me forward instead of the sense of I have to do this or I'm a bad person?
I think the way self-care fits into that is that to me what self-care is a deep appreciation for me exactly who I am and a welcoming of all my experience and my feelings.
Yesterday I got a mean Facebook comment from someone. It doesn't happen to me very often. I think I'm so tough, but I was so hurt and I went and at about five o'clock and I went and laid down in my bedroom and put my hand on my heart and just took a deep breath and just welcomed everything.
I was feeling my anger, my wanting to go lash out, my hurt, my feeling exposed, all those feelings and after a couple minutes I felt so much better. So I think there's a way that when we can keep tasting self-care in a way that really helps us love who we are and the experience we're having and we drop a lot of the cultural baggage.
When I wrote that first book in 1992, nobody talked about self-care. Oprah was still Jerry Springer and now it is a billion-dollar-plus industry. So it's got so much baggage around it. So we can have to find what's fresh and true for us at its core. I think it's about how can I be with myself and welcome myself as I am. I don't know if you know the singer Lizzo?
Jennifer Louden: She's a classically trained violinist who has become this female rapper phenomenon in America, and I don't know about in the UK. She’s all about self-love and body positivity. I was watching a video of her and it's just like that's what self-care is to me.
Joanna: It's interesting because you mentioned Oprah there and you've been on Oprah, which is very cool. And of course everyone thinks that that is the moment you are ordained. Everything in your life will be perfect for the rest of time and yet you're working on this new book, Why Bother?
It seems to suggest that there are more lessons you've had to face as well.
Jen Louden: Oh my gosh, being on Oprah probably sent me into about a two-year depression. Because I wanted to be on and have her ordain me. I wanted her to bless me with the oil of Oprah and say, “You are enough and your work is great.”
I was a guest for a segment and she mentioned the book and she said something good about it, but I was just a cog in the machine. And what was great about it over time, but at the time was horrible, was it really made me start to realize that I had become someone because of the success of my first book who kept waiting to be chosen by Oprah, by Good Morning America, by the magazines, by my readers.
I lived that way for years and it is a debilitating awful way for me to live and eventually, I turned it around where I wanted to choose me. I wanted to grow a company, my little teeny tiny company that could support me whether I was published or not whether Oprah ever knew my name again and where I could talk directly to people. I was lucky that I went online really early, in 1999, and started an email list.
So I had some early advantages, some of which I squandered, unfortunately. But it was a deeper ‘I choose me’ and that's a story and part of the Why Bother? book: how do we choose ourselves when we find ourselves in these places of why bother?
Joanna: Wow, that's so interesting because that waiting for someone to ordain you is so common. And I think it's got a lot to do with imposter syndrome as well, to feel like you're enough.
How do we get over that feeling of we're not enough?
Jen Louden: I have an online membership site and I create an audio for it every week and I just was recording one this morning before we spoke. I was reading some of the words of Sharon Salzberg, who is an American Buddhist meditation teacher. She studied in a variety of disciplines or lineages, but she teaches at the Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts. One of her books is about faith, but you don't have to think of it as a word that has anything to do with Buddhism.
She has all these wonderful interpretations of it and one of her interpretations is faith in your deepest experiences.
When I coach writers and I work a lot with nonfiction writers and they have this come up. “Who am I?” You can totally take a research-based approach and that's very popular and we see a lot of TED talks with that, but you can also take an approach of these are my experiences and I offer them to you and I make these conclusions and you will make your own conclusions.
And that's exactly what, for example, Buddhism has done for 2500 years and we could name lots and other traditions and philosophies. When we claim those experiences and we offer them up in book form or ebook form or blog form or audio form and we say this was my experience. What do you think?
How can we be an imposter? The only way we can be an imposter is we don't go in and claim that experience honestly and then do our best to translate it into words. I think that's sad, but how can your experience not be authentic?
Joanna: I think you're right. You mentioned working with nonfiction writers.
I read a lot of nonfiction and what I feel at the moment is that I don't want to read a nonfiction book unless it has some opinion and experience in it.
I was listening to an audiobook and it was just too much science. It wasn't a science book. It was about walking and it was just science thing after science thing after science thing. I feel like maybe the non-fiction book market has really shifted to a mode now where unless it's an academic textbook, you have to bring yourself.
What do you think about that?
Jen Louden: I totally agree. I'm bored out of my brain, I won't read those books. I'm sorry but I’m putting it down.
I was having dinner with friends of ours. It was about halfway through the writing process of this book. He's a professor up the road at CSU in political science, and he said so, you know, Is this basically a story approach?
He didn't mean it in a dismissive way, but he was basically asking which way are you going. I said totally this is a story approach. This is my story of so many why bother moments in my life, including a very long dark stretch about 10 or 11 years ago.
And then I have been teaching for all these years so I have lots of stories of clients and students and I'm bringing those in for other perspectives. Not as proof but from different perspectives, different lives to say, hey, if you can't relate to me, you might be able to relate to this and here are some conclusions. Here are some things to try.
And that's what I've done with all of my books and I think we're hungry for that. I completely agree with you.
Joanna: The problem that people have of course is where's the line between what is personal to me? What will help other people? What might really offend people I love? And also that fear of judgment, which is something I really struggle with.
How have you dealt with judgment? It must have come up in your other books.
Jen Louden: I think I have the kind of personality that doesn't really mind. I am an introvert but I don't mind being seen. I don't mind sharing my story. I don't mind being vulnerable. I think for me it is maybe because of some early experiences of my life and learning disabilities and such.
I have claimed so much of what I would think of as the ugly dented hard parts of me. That they feel very familiar and comfortable to me. So I don't have that struggle as much.
But what I do say to my students or my clients when that comes up is think about the way you've been impacted by other people's vulnerable stories. Have they changed you? Would you like to be able to try to offer that to someone else?
And then the other thing I say is don't write and share those stories if you're still hurting from them, if you haven't done your inner work, because then you're sharing them as like look how bad I am or look how damaged I am or please save me and that is not good for anybody.
Joanna: I agree. It can't be therapy and I've shared a lot of my personal stuff. But I've got another site now another podcast called Books and Travel and I'm sharing things I've never shared on this show and it's like a whole other side of me. And you kind of realize that there are different parts of your life that you might not have revealed.
We’ve talked there about ordaining yourself and not waiting to be picked and you've decided to publish this book in a different way.
Tell us about your decisions around this.
Jen Louden: This book has taken years to write, although the actual book itself, once it gelled, has only taken me about 7 months.
I have started so many books that haven’t worked and that includes four years and 500 pages of trying to write or traditional memoir with this material that completely failed in every way that I tell my students not to do and then I tried.
After that, after I realized that was a no-no, I tried to resurrect it in a different form and that was called Lessons the Self-help Guru Had to Teach Herself and I took a bunch of self-help tropes like everything happens for a reason and home is where the heart is and things like that and tried to take the memoir and put it into sort of this is what I learned about this trope.
And I wrote a killer but proposal for it, sent it to my agent who's a big-time agent now and I haven't given her book in years, and she turned it down. I went for a run and I went I'm not going to let anybody dim my shine. I'm not going to let anybody decide. There's no problem. I'll go get another agent. But I'm going to work on it some more. Maybe I'll self-publish.
So worked on it for about another month and it totally fell apart. Thank God she didn't take it. I realized I was forcing it into an idea and a form and it just it wasn't authentic. It wasn't real.
And then I had a conversation with my friend Janet Goldstein who I've known since the very beginning of my publishing career. She was my first editors boss and we stayed in touch. She is an independent publishing consultant now and she read the book proposal. She told me yeah, it doesn't work. But what's fresh for you now in this material and that's when the Why Bother came out.
I said I want to help women and men who are in this time of why should I bother whether it's about a particular thing in their life or their whole lives and then the whole thing just gelled together. But then while that was happening I realized I didn't want to go back into that place of waiting for someone to choose me because the whole thing with my agent really triggered those old Oprah memories, and I didn't want to wait years to get the book out because you know how slow it is.
Just getting the agent to respond took like six weeks – to get my own agent to respond. It's ridiculous. So I decided right then and there I would self-publish and then the question was how. How did I want to do it?
And because I do have a pretty tremendous track record luckily with these books I decided to go with a publishing consultant, Page Two Books. They're out of Vancouver. And basically you hire them to act like your publisher. They do great design and editing and then the decision was, do I want to just go to ebook or do I win actually print books and put them in the bookstore and the book reps are pretty excited about the book.
So I've decided I'm going to take the risk and it'll look just like a regular book out there in the bookstores in print form and I'm terrified.
But I'm also like yes, Jen show up for yourself. So I'm trying. Not taking money out of savings. Working extra hard to make the money now and running my different programs and things and just trying to be really smart about it.
The other day I was like, oh my God, what if like Oprah picked it for her book club and I have to like pay to print all those copies? How am I going to do that animal?
And then I was like, “Jen, as if you will have that trouble. Don't worry about it.”
Joanna: At that point, you go back to your agent and you say I want to license this for print and they'll be very happy to take it.
Jen Louden: I'll call you and you'll tell me exactly what to do.
Joanna: Oh absolutely.
I think this is very interesting because you haven't self-published before right?
Jen Louden: No, I've been published by Harper. I've been published by Random House. I've been published by Source. I've been published by Life, by National Geographic, by New World Library. So midsize and big five but never ever thought about doing it myself.
Joanna: I think it’s really exciting and you have an audience, you have people who love your books. You have people who love your retreats, which we’re going to talk about in a minute.
So you're not putting it out for a while, as we speak. Once it's ready or not just going to upload it and then that's it.
What are some of the things that you’re going to do in terms of marketing the book?
Jen Louden: I've been so immersed in writing it I have not made my marketing plan yet, but the few ideas I have and the document I've started obviously we'll concentrate strongly on podcasts, by looking for people in my audience and looking where they've been. So people, we might call those comp titles, that I think yeah, that's my audience.
Those are people that my people also listen to and looking for what podcast they've been on pitching those putting together a really systematic way to do that.
I'll probably hire someone to help me with that. It's not a great strength of my present team. They do a little bit of that for me.
But probably not a full-on PR person. I've never seen that pay off for anybody I know, no matter how much money they spend, so I don't think I'll go the traditional PR route. I have never found that to be impressive yet. But who knows?
I'll also look into where Facebook groups are happening that have guests and Facebook lives. That's something that's come on my radar as a great way to sell books. I don't know whether I'm going to do a book tour not. I've got to decide pretty darn soon.
Part of the result of writing this book has really been to reawaken the environmentalist that I’ve been was little and really wanting to stand for how we can joyfully approach and mitigate the climate crisis and that has made me really aware of how flying is not great for the climate. So, I don't know that I want to do a book tour. We are about to buy an electric car.
We just got solar on our house and we are looking at doing electric car tour and my husband mapped it out. He's like this is impossible. We'll be able to drive 200 miles and have to stop for four hours. You're never going to be able to do it and I'm not good on directions.
So I'm in the early marketing phases. Definitely have been looking at what Marie Forleo's doing. She has a new self-help book coming out and she did a free course for five days as the freebie when you buy a copy of the book, so I'm thinking about doing something like that.
So just looking at everything that's happening out there and going to put together the best practices and then I'm going to devote myself for a full year to marketing.
Joanna: Fantastic. All those things sound amazing and I can hear everyone listening saying Amazon advertising.
Jen Louden: Yes! And BookBub.
Joanna: I would say Amazon ads because you can really only do a BookBub when you put things on a special and so I imagine that'll be later on in the process.
I was also going to say one of the benefits in terms of publishing print-on-demand, which is what obviously a lot of us do when we self-publish, is much greener than a lot of the big publishing practices. So you've made a green choice that way as well.
Jen Louden: I'm so happy that makes me so happy
Joanna: Okay, so we mentioned retreats there and this is one of the big things that you are pretty famous for. I've heard you on different podcasts talk about your retreats. I've never been on one but they sound amazing.
What are the benefits of retreats and what works for writers on retreat?
Jen Louden: I will say that I'm very very good at creating these spaces and leading them and I have had women coming back not every year but for 17 years, on and off. So they've watched me grow and I'm always like what a weird skill I've developed. Why couldn't I have gotten good at like banking or something that makes money, but, well, we all have our things.
I think the most important thing for me in the retreats that I create is a sense of containment so that people really feel like they can let go of the all the different thoughts and distraction and fears that pull it them and really settle into a place of listening to their stories or their ideas. I think that's the most important thing. I keep layering that and kind of holding them there and that is amazing.
And then the other thing I think was I'm amazed at, because as I said, I'm an introvert, is the community. The women who are drawn to these retreats and the way that I set it up so it's safe. There's some very intentional ways that they talk to each other and when we're all together really allows them to feel seen and I think when they feel seen and their words are heard by other women without any commenting or any advice it helps them take their own words on the page seriously.
Joanna: I've only spoken on retreats. I've never been on one as a participant and part of that I think is the fact that I don't want to talk about things. If I'm writing I just want to write.
So the way they're structured, if people come on a writing retreat, are they there to write or is it more of a self-awareness thing?
Jen Louden: It really depends. It's set up for them to have a lot of writing time. Everybody's in silence. There's different properties that I use but there's lots of different places that they go.
I am very clear about giving them help and encouragement. I'm on call during writing time for brief coaching. I'm all about the writing but I find that a percentage of my people aren't.
There really for, I don't want to say excuse in a bad way. It's like a cover. It's a cover story. For them to come and be with themselves and it used to really make me mad because I was like, no this is about writing. But then I realized hey everybody's in different places in their life.
One person who's come back for the last four years she has a severely developmentally disabled daughter who she’s been caring for over 30 years who’s had a series of malpractice incidents, three different incidents, and the daughter has become just completely incapacitated because of these. So she comes and writes about it.
Will she ever write a book about it? I don't know. I've coached her. I've given her different ideas. I think there is a possibility of a really good book there. I love the idea. She came up with this last time. But I think she comes for the self-care, for the camaraderie and to use these experiences and get them out of her in writing and that feels as valuable to me as the people who have come to finish a book.
Those people don't want anything to do with what else is going on. They just want to squirrel away and finish their book and I'm like, that's great too. So I get a real range.
Joanna: It sounds very healing and of course, we all know writing can heal us from all kinds of things.
Jen Louden: I definitely found myself very healed by writing this book that I just sent off today.
Joanna: I wanted to come back to that because I had another question that came up as you were talking. You wrote this as a memoir, a very big memoir and you then decided that that was going to fail. I think you actually used the word fail.
How did you know that that memoir would fail?
Jen Louden: I hired Jenny Nash, who is a book coach, to read it and – the poor woman, it took her three days to write me the email. She didn't know she had known me professionally and she was so like oh my God, I'm so excited. I'm gonna read Jen's memoir.
And then about 50 pages in I think she was like, oh, dear.
It didn't work as a narrative arc. Which ended up serving this book perfectly, but it was a series of these times in my life when I got stuck and so it ended up reading like ‘and then this happened and then this happened’.
Instead of what I teach anyone who's writing memoir; you have to pick a time slice and there's the one thing that you didn't know at the beginning that you know at the end. You have to take us on that journey to learn that and not learned as in knock us over the head but show us so we have the experience.
And I did not do that at all. I threw in the kitchen sink.
Joanna: I'm glad to hear you hired an editor because it's so difficult to see our own work, especially memoir because it's so close to you.
Jen Louden: Yes. I had hired a book coach before and the last thing she told me was I can't think of anything to change. I think it's incredible, I think it's working. So be careful who you hire.
Joanna: Oh, yeah, there is that and sometimes several people, especially when it's something so personal. I'm very excited about Why Bother?. It sounds like you've been working on it for so long.
Jen Louden: Some of the scenes I'm like, wow that is such good writing and I'm like, you do know why that's such good writing. How many years did it take you to write that scene?
Joanna: That's the way it's going to go.
My other site, Books and Travel, I'm starting to write travel memoir and behind me as we talk of got about 50 journals from last like 35 years or travel. I'm going through them and just going oh my goodness and it feels like such a big project. But I'm very encouraged and I am actually encouraged by your story and I will write a memoir at some point, but I'm not sure when it's going to be.
Jen Louden: Well, you're young, you got plenty of time.
Joanna: I'm coming up on 45.
Jen Louden: Seems so young to me!
Joanna: That’s encouraging.
I want to circle back to the retreat because as you said in a very green, eco way, of course, your retreats are in America and many people might not be able to travel for a retreat. They might not have the budget.
What can people do in their home environment or locally that can give them the benefit of a retreat?
Jen Louden: Oh my gosh, you totally can do it for yourself. When I was midway through the Why Bother? book I knew I needed to get away from all my clients and my students and the internet and my sweet and loving husband. I took my dog and myself and he helped me find a cabin and I went up to almost 11,000 feet. A cabin off the grid. No internet. No cell phone service. Solar.
And I spent five days just running and writing and I wrote 16,000 words. It's so what you need to do and you don't have to go away. You can do this at home. You need to create that container for yourself like I do for people on retreat.
What is off-limits? What are you shutting off? What are you not going to do?
You’ve got to give yourself some structure and some form. For me, it was five days. 16,000 words. I will run every day. And I will follow what I want the rest of the time. So if I feel like taking a nap, I’ll take a nap. I brought all kinds of healthy food with me. I made sure I didn't bring any alcohol and I didn't bring a lot of sugar because I know both of those things are not good for my brain.
And so, you can create what are the boundaries for you to really nurture you. Is it turning off the internet? If you don't have the funds maybe a friend has is going out of town and you go to their house where their dirty dishes won't matter as much to you as your dirty dishes do so. You can completely create that for yourself. I've done this repeatedly and it can be absolutely magical. Although I have to say that cabin was particularly lovely but better than my own office.
Joanna: Even just today I went to a local cafe and I can't do creative work here where I'm talking to you. This is my office. This is why I do business things and marketing things and podcasting. But my creative work I have to do it somewhere else.
So I think even if people are in their own home, even just moving rooms might kind of change things a bit.
Jen Louden: Absolutely, you could be like, okay Saturday everybody's out of the house. So my retreat begins when I hear them say goodbye and go out the front door to catch the bus. I ask my family to help me get the house cleaned up Friday night and then I'm going to be in let's say you have a guest room or the living room.
I'm going to buy myself flowers and I unplug when they leave out the door. I unplug the internet. You give yourself like yes, this is my opening. This is my beginning my retreat.
And then what's the structure? I'm going to make sure I write this many words. I'm going to copy these sentences from books that I love. I'm going to cover the walls with Post-it notes for my narrative arc. You give yourself a list of possible things to play with and the retreat ends when they come back in the door and I plug back in.
Joanna: I’m so glad you said by yourself flowers. I don't think we've ever mentioned this on the podcast before, but I buy myself flowers all the time.
Jen Louden: I love that. That's one of the things I missed for 20 years. I lived in California and oh my gosh. I missed the flowers. They are not the same in Colorado.
Joanna: You've got lovely mountains.
Jen Louden: We do. I can see a 14,000-foot peak from my office if I lean out one corner of the window.
Joanna: That's beautiful. We’re out of time and I really appreciate you coming on today. I think that this is such an important topic and I love that after 30-odd years of writing and publishing and putting your work out there, you're still learning things and still sharing them. So thank you for doing that.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Jen Louden: It's very easy. Everything's at JenniferLouden.com and I have a great freebie that is all about getting unstuck. It's for creators and writers. So if you're feeling stuck that can be really helpful.
You can find out about my retreats. We open retreats in mid-October. They do always sell out, but then if for any reason you don't get in, we usually have one or two people drop out through the course of the year and a spot open up.
Joanna: Thank you so much for your time, Jen. That was great.
Jen Louden: Thank you.
Jane Sturgeon says
Thank you , Joanna, as this is helpful and timely. You’ve introduced me to Jen too, thank you. x
Jason Youngman says
Hi Joanna, I think this might be my fav podcast so far. Jen is hitting a lot of notes for me. The fact that she picked up jogging later in life, not to mention participated in a marathon, makes her a real hero in my books. Well, probably not in my books, for I’ve yet to publish one yet, but you know what I mean. Anyways, she puts me in mind of Brittany Runs A Marathon; a drama/comedy that recently hit the big screen starring Jillian Bell. Like Jen, Brittany gets her game on despite the obstacles in her path. It was also interesting to hear Jen share her experience of how she reacted to a slight on facebook. Sharing my vulnerable side is so challenging for me, so when I hear people like Jen – being so strong and confident – it makes it easier for me to lighten up. Then shortly afterwards she makes reference to cautioning others [her clients] not to share stuff if they’re still feeling hurt over it. My first thought was that there was a contradiction but I’m gathering it’s the intention/s for sharing that we ought to be on the look out for. Either way a little circumspection can go a long way. Nothing quite beats her Oprah story though hey. Hell we can all relate to the compelling desire for the silver bullet approach to success. Also liked the suggestions about taking a retreat in the comfort of one’s home. Lots of love Joanna and looking forward to more awesome interviews.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you found it interesting, Jason 🙂
I really appreciated this episode Joanna, thank you. I will be looking Jen Louden up, for sure.
I was interested in your comments too, especially around creativity and your approach to your creative path and passions. This is why I follow you (and maybe I am in the minority here?), not for your prowess as a business woman or an author, but for your expansion into living a creative life, living your life for you! This is also where I am in my life after a long career in IT project management and losing my job role in 2008. In appraisals I was always marked low on creativity … if only my manager could see me now! I retrained as a psychotherapist, became an artist (I am a portrait painter) and since 2014, a writer. I am a creative!
I am working on a memoir project where I am combining my portrait painting and my writing. It is challenging but rewarding.
You mentioned Books & Travel when talking to Jen and your desire to write a memoir. I know this is one of the reasons you launched B&T and I am a great fan. I love what you’re doing on B&T … every episode is informative and inspiring but I would like to see more of you revealed in your memoir writing. How’s in going? What creative ideas do you have — combining your photos for example with your writing. I am hoping you will interview more memoirists and do more on the craft of memoir writing. Is this on your agenda?
Thank you Joanna — as always what you offer and give to the world is greatly appreciated.
Laura Martone says
As you know, Dan and I love your podcast, but this episode especially resonated with me – at a time when I really needed to hear it. So, thanks, Jo, for interviewing Jen – the conversation was enlightening, encouraging, and life-affirming.
Joanna Penn says
Glad it resonated, Laura! xx
JENNIFER m LOUDEN says
Thanks for listening!