111: Jennifer Louden – Featured on the Oprah Show and Quoted by Brené Brown

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Why Bother? is a Book That Changed My Life

Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with her 1992 bestselling debut book Woman’s Comfort Book. She is the author of six additional books, including Woman’s Retreat Book, The Life Organizer, and Why Bother? 

With close to a million copies of her books in print in nine languages, Jennifer is a sought-after speaker, addressing audiences across the USA, Canada, and Europe. She is a former columnist for Whole Living, a Martha Stewart magazine, and has appeared on a number of television and radio shows and podcasts – including The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Her work has been featured in People, USA Today, CNN, and Brené Brown’s books Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead.

As an entrepreneur and educator, Jennifer has offered women’s retreats for over 25 years, and her email newsletter reaches 20,000 subscribers weekly. She lives in Boulder County, Colorado.

What We Discuss with Jennifer Louden:

  • Struggling with self-acceptance
  • The book writing process for Why Bother? 
  • The premise of the question
  • How to move through your “why bother” period
  • Writing the book is a self-transformation process
  • Your book as the starting point of many conversations
  • How to connecting with the reading part of the brain
  • The power of connecting with your deep why

[01:31] A Struggle with Self-Acceptance

The book Why Bother? is in between the space where Jennifer was writing but nothing seemed to be working. Although stuff were still coming out for her so it didn’t feel like she completely disappeared, she wrote two novels at that time that never made it out of her computer. 

She did a lot of writing, including a memoir that she wrote for four years, but nothing worked. Part of the reason was that she was struggling to accept what she had to say. She was struggling with her own self-acceptance.

[05:40] The Book Writing Process for Why Bother?

The book emerged and then the message got clear on what was the book. She then had to look at what stories did she have or had already written in the memoir that serves that premise.

There were stories she didn’t include just because they didn’t fit right. So she really had to look at what fits the story. 

The premise is to companion you through your own Why Bother period and not to tell you what to do.

The first big idea is that we all ask “why bother” in our own way – and we all do it on a daily basis – whether’s it about our health, marriage, creativity, etc. But it has its two sides. On one side, there’s no reason to bother. What’s the point? There’s no point. And then the flip side is what do I want to bother with? Why do I want to bother? 

So how are you asking the question? Do you think you already know the answer? Are you saying it’s too late? You’re too old. There’s no point, it’s been done. In this case, then you’re not actually asking the question. 

There’s nothing wrong with asking – it’s natural.

And leading through that process, you’re not supposed to make a plan or to get it because that’s just going to be too small. It’s going to be too soon. You have to enliven desire again and to enliven your relationship with life. So then you can make some choices.

[10:15] How to Move Through Your Why Bother Period

It’s about recognizing the power of our mindset that we have a set of beliefs and life experiences that become a lens through which we look at our lives. 

Shifting our mindset affects our physical health and our ability to take action.

Many people tend to hold onto what was or what they wish they could still have or the story of what should have been done. Leaving this behind stops the why bother process from naturally happening.

When we’re in a Why Bother period, we want answers. We want a plan and we want something to hold on to. But what we actually need is to be in between this liminal space where we’re finding that life again.

Invite wonder back into your life.

Wonder opens the door to desire and the door to life again. We have a natural capacity for one year, but our brains like answers instead – even if the answers make us give up.

[20:55] A Book Transforms the Author Himself/Herself

If the book doesn’t transform the author, how is it going to transform anyone else? If you don’t discover and grow while you’re writing it, if you’re just regurgitating what you already know, then it arrives dead. It doesn’t have a life that people can pick up on because that’s something that you discover.

If you don’t see yourself differently through this work, then it’s just going to be information, just transactional information. If you want to have a transformation, you’ve got to lean into the tight spots. 

Writing doesn’t fail because of skill but it fails because the author fails to give themselves generously.

Most women have the inability to claim what they know or the inability to claim their voice. And this is because women, in particular, have learned to play themselves second, third, or fourth, or because they’ve experienced sexism.

Shadow Comfort is the idea that we do things in the name of self-care or self-renewal but actually don’t make us feel better. This was something she was quoted for by Brené Brown in her book.

[27:17] Your Book as the Starting Point of the Many Conversations

A book is a starting point. It’s the conversation you want to own. What’s the conversation you want to keep having with this ideal reader over and over? If you had two minutes in the elevator, or you had 20 minutes and a car ride, or you had five hours on the couch, what’s the conversation and what would you hope that they would get from it?

People think of the book as the words on the page, but the words are just the shadow of what you’re really trying to say.

A book is one basket of the many different baskets you can have, and all the baskets can be in different shapes and sizes. So you can have the basket of the conversation on the couch or the conversation with clients or the conversation on the stage. 

But people tend to put a big silo around the book and it gets very frozen. They have the belief that the book is the end and everything stops with the book. But no. Everything starts with the book. And it’s part of the continuum. 

Pay close attention to what is your way of seeing the world and that’s where you start to own it.

[31:04] Strategies on How to Be a Better Writer

Try writing it on paper by hand or so do some kind of free writing. Keep your hand moving and dig deeper and give yourself a lot of space to do that. Then see what’s the nugget you want to go back to and put it in the document. 

Some writing doesn’t work because it lacks the sensory details. Go inside the piece that you already have such as your draft. Then write it out of the book. 

Reprogram your brain to think two ways. Using your right, creative brain, you will find yourself all over the place because creativity doesn’t have any bounds or limits or time or worries. And then the left brain is the editing brain, and you want it to show up to help serve you. But if they show up together, you’re going to live in your head or are stuck on the page and not get out.

[34:54] Paying Attention to the Sensory Details 

The sensory details move the story forward or reveal character or create tension or whatever it is you’re trying to do in that part. It’s not just to fill up space. 

The sensory details are what lights up the reading part of our brain.

The sensory details make it a much richer experience, much more real for the reader.

Episode Resources:

Jennifer Louden’s books:

Woman’s Comfort Book

Woman’s Retreat Book

The Life Organizer

Why Bother?

Visit Jennifer Louden at jenniferlouden.com

Follow her on Twitter @jenlouden, and on Instagram @jenlouden

Other book mentions:

Brené Brown’s books:

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long

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