Lo and I both fell in love with Shauna Niequest’s writing style and her down-to-earth, authentic, faith-filled self when reading her book bread & wine. She has a way of writing that is relatable, refreshing, and full of honesty and hope. We were so excited when we heard that she was coming out with a new book, Present Over Perfect, and even more excited when we had the opportunity to do a 10 question interview with her. When Lo and I put together these questions for Shauna, we hadn’t read the book yet, but now I am more than halfway through and cannot say enough good things about it. It’s one of those books that makes you look forward to bedtime, just so you can get under the covers extra early for some reading time. The description on the front cover could not be more on-point when it comes to a hint of what you will find inside- “leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living“. There are so many sentences underlined, starred, and hearted on the pages that I have read so far, that it is slightly crazy-looking if you were to flip through. It’s that good. If I had to pick one favorite quote (so far) it would definitely be this- “It’s [being present over perfect] about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.” I don’t know about you, but I am with Shauna- hustling for perfection is exhausting and not worth the struggle. Being present, real, and full of love during all of life’s moments (the good, the bad, the messy, and the not-messy) is much, much more appealing. Scroll down to read our 10 question q&a and thank you, Shauna, for being you!
1. Congrats on the release of Present Over Perfect! How exciting was release day? Dish on all of the fun details.
The funny thing about release days is that really, nothing happens–you have that date on the calendar for so long, and then it comes, and you just spend the day in your pajamas, replying to people on social media. But all day long, people I love stopped over, bringing flowers and my favorite lavender honey, and fish tacos from my favorite Mexican spot. One of the guys that worked on the release with us—our good friend Tim—stopped over early in the morning with a box of Stan’s donuts and some Blue Bottle coffee…Tim knows what we love, and it was fun to start off the day sitting in the kitchen with him. And then at the end of the day, when we had received good news about how the release was going, my parents and my brother came over for a champagne toast on the front porch—with plastic cups, kids riding their bikes in circles around us, and frozen pizza.
2. We are so excited to dive into your newest book. If you could pick out one thing that you pray people take away from it, what would it be?
My prayer is that this book is essentially a permission slip for people to leave behind the pressures and expectations and roles that they’ve always played, and live freely out of their essential selves, with all the strengths and flaws and dreams and limitations that each of us have.
3. The writing process really fascinates us. Can you shed some light on how you begin to write a book? I remember reading somewhere that sitting down to write was sometimes the hardest part of the process for you- is that still true and if so, how do you overcome that challenge?
Yes, certainly, sitting down is the hardest part—it’s so easy to think of a million other things you should be doing. What helps me toward that end is structure: I write like I’m going to work—good work, work that I love, but work nonetheless. The discipline helps me—there’s so much freedom within the parameters of discipline.
4. We fell in love with you and your writing style when reading Bread & Wine. The concept of inviting people in your home and gathering around the table has really influenced us when entertaining. In that book, you talk a lot about imperfection over perfection. What are your tips for people who might be refraining from inviting people over because their home is not up to the unrealistic idea of “perfection”?
I very firmly believe that people would much rather be fed in a slightly messy, sort of normal home instead of a rigid, perfect, super-buttoned-up space. If people want a super-refined, exactly perfect experience, that’s what restaurants are for. But home cooking should always make you feel at home, wherever you are.
5. The cover for Present Over Perfect is so great- is there a story behind the converse shoes? Lauren and I are big fans of chucks, so we are dying to know!
At one very important point on my own present-over-perfect journey, I snapped a photo of my chucks while I was sitting on the dock in Northern Wisconsin. That phone photo captured so much, but it wasn’t high-res enough for the cover. So honestly, we tried to recreate it a million different ways, and the one that finally worked was taken by my husband over Thanksgiving weekend on a freezing cold day—we put a movie on for the boys in the car, and ran out to the end of the dock. I’m sure my publisher was horrified when I insisted my husband (not a photographer) could get the shot, but he absolutely did!
6. Your Facebook page is such a fun one to follow. I love the way you are honest about the real, REAL parts of life. Like the raccoons. 🙂 What is your approach when using the Facebook platform to connect with your fans?
To be honest, I don’t think much about social media—very intentionally. It’s a fun way to connect, and there are people that I enjoy following and learning from, but it’s such a small slice of our lives, and I think we get into trouble when we make it bigger than it should be. Real life is so much sweeter than internet life.
7. When looking back at all of your books, and reminiscing about the writing journey for each, do you have a favorite? I know picking favorites is so hard, but if you do have a #1, we would love to know which one and why.
Really, Present Over Perfect represents the greatest life change for me, so it means the most.
8. What is the best piece of wisdom you have ever received that has remained as a constant reminder in your life?
My friend Laura always says, “start where you are.” I love that. It’s easy to see all the reasons you think you’ll fail, or how enormous the task ahead is, or how unprepared you are. But just start where you are, wherever that is.
9. Lauren and I have been talking about the importance of rest and slowing down lately. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day rush, but it’s way too exhausting! What are your tips for slowing down despite chaotic circumstances?
I love that you’re asking these questions! For me, these are a couple things that really helped:
First, talk with the people you’re closest to about wanting to live more slowly—that way, they’re on your team, cheering you on, encouraging you, instead of wondering about what’s changed. Second, start small: you don’t have to over haul your life all at once. Begin with small, concrete steps: put a couple home nights/family dinners on the calendar a couple nights a week instead of being out every night, or make a list of things that make you feel rested and playful, and mark out time on the calendar to do those things—many of us have been ruled by our calendars for so long that it’s helpful to use the calendar to essentially plan some things that should come naturally: rest and play.
10. I love this quote that you recently posted on Facebook: “Love is never found in the hustle.” Amen to that! Can you elaborate on this concept of love and hustle and why the two don’t go hand in hand?
I hate that the word hustle has become so prominent in our culture: hustle is all about pushing, earning, tricking, multi-tasking. These are not the things that bring life and love and deep connection. The best things are built slowly, with care and creativity and depth. I don’t want anything built on hustle—that feels cheap, and flimsy, and temporary. I want to practice believing that there is so much more to life than hustle.