written by
Srinivas Rao

Why Bother and Figuring Out What's Next w/ Jennifer Louden

3 min read

These are cliff notes from an episode of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast

1. Jennifer learned an important lesson from her father: ‘When going gets tough, the tough get going.’ This idea became her important motto and the source of grit.

2. Another important mantra relevant to her creative life was I want to be here for it all.’ We must be striving to get the whole experience of creative work and creative life. That includes the joy of creation, triumph, playfulness as well as jealousy, struggle, changing timelines, harsh feedback. Jennifer believes that it is a spiritual practice.

3. What often keeps us stuck and disappointed is the illusion that we will get somewhere, that there is an end goal. The very nature of creativity is that it is a learning process. Creative life includes both things we can influence (the process) and things we can't (the affirmation of our work from others). We have to find satisfaction in what we can control, which is our own creative process.

4. Jennifer was stuck with writing memoir that did not work and had hit many obstacles, when she realized that she was repeating the same patterns over and over. What was missing was a big pause to think, reflect, and let what's next unravel organically. She rather felt that she should be pushing herself toward the next thing before she was ready. And that’s how her book ‘Why Bother’ came to life.

5. Our brains are incredibly quick to judge that we did something wrong because our expectations didn’t meet our reality. We default to cruelty towards ourselves because it keeps us alert and certain. This behavior can be unlearned, which is an important mindset shift that will make us more resilient.

6. While we’re figuring out what is next, we need to have time to collect ideas, increase our courage, reestablish self-identity, and gather energy we need in order to bring the next thing to life. We are often too quick to jump into what is next thing because this in-between space feels uncomfortable and disorienting.

7. We are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which can give us an opportunity to notice what we don’t want to bother about and what we do, what possibilities light us up, and what aspects of life have some more space to breathe now. And that is a powerful space from which to build something new.

8. A big component of figuring out what is next is deciding what you are leaving behind. We typically create prisons for ourselves with our beliefs and stories. True, we have to acknowledge reality, but our ideas of life purpose are often way too limited.

9. When we don’t have spiritual, creative, and mental resources, we cling to our identities. Identities are the constructs that give us a sense of security, which is also something we should consider leaving behind.

10. What is standing between everyone and their ‘why bother’ are endless distractions, digital or otherwise. You won’t have the mental capacity to figure out what is next when you are stretched too thin and distracted.

11. Desire gives us the agency over our lives. We often think about what desire can bring us and why we desire what we do, but we need to allow desire to unravel on its own, even if we don’t understand it yet. We have to get curious about our desires, as they are usually the signs that life is trying to get us in a new way.

12. The quality of knowing, trusting, accepting ourselves and others and whatever life brings are things that make us unmistakable, according to Jennifer.

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