A couple of years ago, Jennifer Louden interviewed me for her Teach Now course. This program teaches pedagogy and self-care for anyone who feels called to be a teacher, and I was delighted to be included as guest faculty.
Since then, I have been following Jennifer's work with admiration. Her writing is in service to people who are in service, and she dedicates herself to bringing lightness, ease, creativity and joy to everyone who works with her.
I was honoured to be featured on her site recently, when she launched her Life Navigation course. I was asked to give a different kind of advice than usual -- this time, on living a life that I've chosen. Writing this article for her site gave me significant pause. I had to be very honest with myself as I wrote it.
So then I thought: wouldn't it be special to have Jennifer Louden open up about her writing process, and share her insights with you?
The thing is, I've always had some certainty about my life path — I identified myself as a writer before I knew how to ride a bicycle — and I think this gives me psychic leverage. People always assumed that I'd be an author, because it was kind of the only thing I was good at when I was young.
But Jennifer Louden's path was not as clear. And even though we have come to writing in different ways, I am as strengthened by her advice as I think emerging writers will be.
Her Life Navigation course opens tomorrow, and it is based on her twenty-two years of working as an author, speaker and life coach. From the incredibly thoughtful questions that Jen asked when she requested the article, I got a taste of what it might be like to work with her. She's a wonderful, insightful human being. It's my pleasure to introduce her to you today.
For this guest post, I asked Jennifer: if she could advise emerging writers about one important part of the writing process, what would it be?
Her answer, below.
Writing has been my professional path since 1985. That path is made up of a variety of forms: book reviews for a Hollywood agency, mostly unsold screenplays and TV episodes, a smattering of short stories, essays, two (and a half) first drafts of novels, six books with something like a million copies in print in nine languages, a national magazine column for three years, and fourteen years of a weekly online newsletter that morphed into weekly blogging.
When I look back at all these years of work, the most vital thing I've learned, the wisdom I relearn every single day is immediately clear to me: be stubborn.
You see, writing is very, very hard for me. None of my friends or high school teachers said, "Jen will be a writer." True, I devoured books, loved movies, loved figuring out how stories and people worked, but words themselves — syntax, spelling, putting it together in a coherent, readable way? Nope.
My struggle to write is due in part to my learning challenges (grouped under the label dyslexic) and a health condition that often muddles my brain. But honestly, I don't care why writing is a challenge for me. What matters is I don't stop. I didn't believe my high school friend when I told him my first book was being published and he said, "But you can't write a book, you can't spell." I didn't believe my college friend who said, "You're not a writer, it's too hard for you." I didn't believe USC film school when, after finishing my undergraduate degree, they turned me down for grad school in screenwriting.
I didn't believe the agents who turned me down, the people who didn't buy my screenplays, or the first draft of my first book proposal. Most of all, I didn't believe myself when I would whisper, "You suck. It shouldn't be so hard. Go do something more useful. Go do something easier."
Being stubborn is my secret writing superpower and it's one I highly recommend.
Don't believe anyone who says, "Quit," especially yourself. Don't assume you don't need to be stubborn after you've had some success either. Eight years ago I had written five successful books in fairly quick succession, but since then I have only published one book. Recently, I finally hit upon a book idea I care about, but there are no guarantees.
So I bring on the stubborn. I bring on the discipline to write first thing, after yoga and meditation, before email and, please God, before Facebook. I bring on learning and good mentoring (thanks Sarah). Most of all, I bring on the daily practice of writing and I place my stubborn faith there.
Writing will rarely be easy for me. My dreams of crafting stories like Ray Bradbury or Lev Grossman or essays like Rebecca Solnit or Joan Didion remain dreams. Oh, well. Here is what I care about: that I keep learning. That I keep putting words down. That I never let despair win, at least not for long.
That I put my head down and keep going, word by word.
Jennifer Louden helped start the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman's Comfort Book. She's written five more books, including The Woman’s Retreat Book and The Life Organizer that have inspired more than a million women in 9 languages. Jen has spoken around the world on self-care, written a national magazine column, and even sat on Oprah's couch talking about the power of retreats.
Join Jennifer for a free preview of The Life Navigation Course, based on 22 years of her best work. Sign up here.