115: Why You Need to Stop Trying to Write the Perfect Book with Shauna Niequist

It’s hard to focus. With phone in my pocket and calendar filled with family time, running a business, and writing a book, embracing the present is a challenge. And I know I’m not alone in this.


All of us feel a little overwhelmed at times (or maybe all the times). We have obligations and opportunities. We’re working or studying, and trying to exercise, volunteer, work on side projects, and oh yeah: actually enjoy ourselves.

It’s easy to fall behind, feel disconnected, and or have that sense that we’re missing out on everything. But we don’t have to live like this. Busyness is not a virtue. If anything, it often does you more harm than good.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Shauna Niequist and I talk about her latest book, Present Over Perfect, and how she learned to forgo settling for busy in order to live a more simple, yet actively engaged life.

Shauna also allows us to peer into her writing life to let us see how she turns ideas into books, how she outlines her work and collaborates with editors, and what it means to not fixate on being a perfect writer.

Shauna’s story is our story. At one time or another, all of us will battle with feelings of exhaustion in our pursuit for more. Listen in as she and I discuss what was going on in her life that motivated her to write this book and why the perfect story doesn’t exist.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Shauna and I discuss:

  • Whether or not you should read while you’re writing.
  • Authors you should be aware of and read.
  • What was taking place in Shauna’s life that inspired her latest book.
  • Why your sense of value doesn’t come from what you earn.
  • The importance of telling your life’s story unfiltered.
  • How to find book ideas from your life and turn them into books.
  • Respecting the relationship between readers and writers.
  • Why the concept of perfectionism is not really applicable to writers.
  • Working with editors in your book writing process.

Quotes and takeaways

  • “I’m always telling a story, and mine is the only one I know how to tell well.” –Shauna Niequist
  • Our sense of value does not come from what you create and earn.
  • “Don’t like to write, but like having written.” –Frank Norris
  • Don’t forsake the well-being of your personal life for your professional aspirations.
  • “There is no there-there.” –Gertrude Stein
  • There’s always time to let go of bad habits in order to pick up new ones to carry with you to tomorrow.


What’s the one thing you took away from today’s life that applies to your life? Share in the comments.