Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author, retreat leader, coach, and speaker. She has reached millions of women through her books, communities, and writing retreats, teaching them how to create human-scaled routines that support the creation of extraordinary lives. Jen is also a passionate teacher and a full-fledged ambassador for helping creative women get their scary sh*t done.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in what was then a small town in Florida on the East Coast. I spent a lot of time in the ocean and on the beach and walking the golf course we lived on making up stories I told to my dog, Columbo. It was a life with plenty of time to wander and have an imagination, which was great for me.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
How important it is not to wait for someone to choose you – you have to choose yourself again and again. No one is coming to discover you or anoint you, you have to do it yourself.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Write what you know. How boring is that! Write what you want to learn, write what has energy, write into the unknown. Write what you know is a snore.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I wrote a whole book about the darkness I lived through called Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next. What I learned from those times (yes plural) is you will stay stuck in the mire and the darkness until you forgive yourself and others and make a regular strong practice of self-compassion. I also learned that you are always doing the best you know how at the time. We rewrite history and decide we knew then what we know now. That is so cruel.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Being stubborn. I’m not the smartest or the most creative person but I am very, very stubborn. Also, I have a very strong desire to help creative people so they will not suffer the way I have. I want to make it easier for everybody else.
What is your morning routine?
My routine is crap right now because of Covid. I have gotten into a terrible habit of working first thing! As we start to emerge, I am slowly building back my healthy nurturing routine. Coffee with journaling or reading something nourishing around 5:30 am, then a little meditation then exercise, either running or HITT with weights. That is my ideal!
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation. Loving kindness. Being grateful for another day of life. Remembering my essential goodness and everyone else’s too. Assuming good intentions. Laughter, especially at myself. Reading poetry.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I’m a big believer in unmashing choosing which means I plan my day the day before. I use the app Todoist and Google calendar to try (and I mostly succeed) to have on my list only what I can actually do on that day. I’m also pretty good at being certain each item is broken down so I know how to start. Nothing vague like “write a newsletter” but instead a sketched-out idea.
I also have my list organized in order of importance, so creative or scary things come first. I use time blocking with a kitchen timer to make sure I don’t flip over to answering emails when my work gets tough.
I refresh myself with energy breaks – I might play with my puppy or sit outside, or consciously breath out stress and striving and breath in joy and gratitude.
I teach about mindful productivity, so I try to walk my talk.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – to observe the world is what a writer does
Be Here Now by Ram Dass – my first introduction to meditation and yoga when I was 12
Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson – my first introduction to how the brain and meditation can work together
Collected Poems of Mary Oliver – beauty! The natural world!
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“What is the purpose of life?” Joseph Campbell was asked, “The purpose of life is to feel the rapture of being alive.”