Jill Jepson is a writer, writing coach, college professor, and linguistic anthropologist. She is the author of Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing With Passion & Purpose, published by Ten Speed Press. She runs Writing the Whirlwind, a business that offers workshops and coaching for writers, activists, caretakers, and others (www.writingthewhirlwind.net ). Her personal website can be found at www.jilljepson.com.
Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us what your latest book, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose, is all about?
Jill: Writing as a Sacred Path explores the practices of four spiritual vocations—that of the shaman, warrior, mystic and monk—to provide a new approach for writers. It is for all writers who wish to write with purpose and direction and to develop a deep connection to their writing. It contains more than eighty exercises—although I prefer the term “sacred tools”—using myth, meditation, ritual, dreams, crafts, nature experiences, and other means to help writers deepen and expand their writing practice. Writing as a Sacred Path offers readers a way to approach writing as a life-changing spiritual practice.
Is this your first book? If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?
Jill: Everything I write is a new experience. I have two previous books out and many articles in newspapers and magazines, and every one of them has been a unique experience. Writing as a Sacred Path came in a clear, fresh stream. It is the work of my soul, something I believe in very deeply, so writing it felt very natural. I’ve spent many years exploring spiritual traditions throughout the world, and I’ve written my entire life, starting before I was even in kindergarten, so I had all that behind me and much of it went into the book. It seemed as if every time I needed an example or a specific idea, one would simply come to me out of that store of memory. The book was a pleasure to write.
How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?
Jill: I don’t experience writer’s block and haven’t for years. The reason is because I’ve developed techniques for dealing with the fear that creates blocks. Fear is the major reason writers find themselves stuck. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of exposing yourself on the page. It’s not that I don’t have fear—I think all writers do. It’s just that I’ve learned to write through it. To know it’s there and just keep writing anyway. I remember once watching an Olympic figure skater who took a terrible fall and got up and just kept going. One of the commentators said, “She must be in a lot of pain right now,” and the other—who was a former skater herself—said, “Oh, she’s not even feeling that pain. She’ll feel it later, but right now, she’s just skating.” That’s how I feel about writing. You may be in pain, you’re may be anxious and frustrated and scared out of your wits, but you’re not feeling it. You’re just writing.
How have your fans embraced your latest book? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?
Jill: I get some wonderful correspondence from people. It’s lovely getting an email from someone in India or Australia or Finland, saying that my book spoke to them or helped them in some way.
What is your daily writing routine?
Jill: I write every morning. I’m not really a morning person, in the sense of someone who gets up at dawn. I’m a fairly late riser. But once I do get up, that’s when I’m most creative. I try never to schedule meetings or appointments in the mornings if I can help it. I write for several hours, then have lunch. When I’m really in the flow of things, I can write right through the afternoon and evening as well.
When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?
Jill: I read, I play Baroque music on the recorder, and I sit on my deck with my husband and just watch the waterfalls in my back yard. I try to exercise every day. My cats and dogs help me relax, too.
What book changed your life?
Jill: This may sound like an odd choice, but it was a book called The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen Buchmann. It’s about all the creatures who pollinate the plants of the world, about how pollination takes place, and what would happen if the pollinators died out. I’ve always had a fascination with science, especially biology, and a regret that I was essentially shoved out of it by insensitive science teachers when I was a child. This book touched that love in a special way. It spoke to me about the web of life and the importance of protecting our precious planet.
If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?
Jill: A Comedy of Terrors. Or A Farm Girl in the Twilight Zone.
Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”
Jill: That I’m a bit of an empath. I don’t mean I’m psychic, I mean I seem to absorb the feelings of the people around me a little too much. It’s as if I have a super-refined intuition about what others are experiencing. It helps my writing, but otherwise it’s just a massive pain.
Thank you for this interview, Jill. I wish you much success on your latest release, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose!