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Archetypal Woman Series: Jen Knox

The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.

Editor's note: I have often observed people hold back from writing their book or creating their art for fear it won't be a New York Times bestseller or renowned masterpiece. As Jen Knox explains though, the act of creating itself is therapeutic. The public reception is almost beside the point (though with Jen's help, authors have reached wide audiences). Jen acts as coach, accountability guide and cheerleader for people who want to write their memoirs. And she has significant experience; she's a globally published and award-winning writer herself. ~ Mary Margaret

Jen, congratulations! Your collection of short stories, Resolutions, came out this month. What was the inspiration behind it?

Thank you, Mary Margaret! My fiction is often described by reviewers as “dark” because it features tough-knuckled, working-class people. I don’t think this makes it dark. I think this makes it beautiful. As evidenced by the COVID-19 epidemic, humans are more resilient and more connected than we know. We all struggle in different ways, and the more we are able to operate from a place of empathy and compassion, the more we are able to see the beauty in the grit.

In the case of Resolutions, the protagonist, Jasmine, is a mother of four who believes both in the American Dream and the idea that she is cursed. She is a woman I explore from various angles because she represents not a type but an individual.

The string of narratives is about how Jasmine might be perceived from a societal view, from the view of her children and, ultimately, how she self-defines. The book is primarily narrated by Jasmine’s middle daughter, Molly May, who is a smart young woman observing her reality with a keen sense of curiosity but no direction whatsoever.

I started Resolutions in 2015, and it is the first book I’ve written that will be adapted to film, so I’m very excited to see where that goes. Every-day people deserve a stage. All humans contain brilliance, and my belief is that (often) such brilliance is all the brighter when it’s well-concealed.

You are also a writing coach and help people write books. What kind of books do you help people write, specifically, and what does this process look like?

I prefer to work with people writing memoirs or personal stories--be those fiction or nonfiction. I wrote my memoir in 2009, and the completion of that book changed the course of my entire life. Not because it was published but because it was released. That is, released from my blood and body.

If you follow Eckhart Tolle, you’ll know what I mean when I say that my own memoir was the representation of my pain body; once I wrote it, I shed something and became someone new. Writing is truly a powerful, transformational process for me in this way. So long as there is a personal thread, there is unbridled power in this process.

When I work with clients, I begin by asking a series of questions to better understand the writer’s goals as well as her motivation. Then, we work together to tap that motivating source so as to sustain the creative energy and complete a book or project that captures said experience.

As a coach, I am there to provide support and structure, offer developmental editing, and (if applicable) guide writers along the path toward submission and/or publication. Many of my clients have gone on to publish books or stories and reach new audiences with their unique creative voices. Many more have learned to adopt a daily writing practice or learned to deepen meditation through written reflection.

Why is it important to you to help people write their stories?

My own experience coupled with a genuine desire to uplift others in the way that I am best equipped to: teaching writing and creative expression. My belief is that our creative energy will eat us alive if we don’t funnel it into art. Once we write the thing down though, it’s like magic. There’s objectivity, perspective, and often a damn good story that can help a lot of people.

Are there common struggles clients come to you with when it comes to writing their stories? What blocks do people generally come up against?

Often, people say they don’t have time, but there is more behind that story. Often, writers are holding back and are unsure why. When I read their work, I look for guideposts that hint at the core of the art they want to create. It’s so hard to identify these on one’s own. It’s a strange thing, but our best art is often the art that scares us the most. I help people to make their best written art by supporting them, encouraging them, and by looking for these guideposts, no matter how subtle.

What advice do you have for someone who has a burning desire to tell their story, but doesn’t have a writing background and doesn’t know where to start?

To steal a line from Simon Sinek, I’d say, start with why. Why do you want to write, and who do you want to write for? Is it yourself? (That’s a wonderful answer, by the way.) A family member? A person you’ve never met? The younger version of you?

Once you determine why you feel compelled to write and for whom, we’ll get you to the finish line despite lack of experience and despite over-experience (which can be its own problem). Because genuine purpose and curiosity drives art, not formulaic bullshit.

You also teach yoga and meditation. In your view, what is the connection between these practices and creativity?

I believe that meditation and writing are almost interchangeable. Yoga is needed by all writers because we don’t move enough. Writing is needed by some yogis because it is a pure and meditative outlet that combines art, emotion and visceral mental exercise.

What’s next for you?

I will deepen my yoga and meditation practice as well as my writing practice. I am a teacher and sometimes do not make enough time for my own projects or for sustained outreach. I plan to coach more, to work with people one-on-one and, in a parallel fashion, go deeper yet with my own work. I feel as though I am on the same journey with clients. We are in this together, and this gives us all more creative strength.

What message do you want to share with the world?

You matter. Your voice matters. But remember that other people’s voices matter, too. Art and writing are conversations, not places that only exist on the proverbial stage. Read a lot, write a lot, and learn to listen deeply. Pay attention to the struggles as well as the successes. This is the journey of an artist.

Jen Knox helps people break blocks and tap into the power of writing and sharing their personal stories. She is an award-winning writer, a writing coach, and meditation teacher who is passionate about sharing techniques for creating creative resilience.

You can follow her on Instagram @_jenknox_ and on Twitter @jenknox2. You can listen to her guided meditations here.

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