If you’ve ever thought you might crumble under the burden of perfection (and who among us hasn’t?) you’ll want to meet my friends Kathi and Cheri. They’ve just written a book especially for us!
Here’s a little about each of them so you’ll know who they are before we dive into questions & answers:
Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the author of several books, including The Husband Project and Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.
Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for 25 years. The Gregory’s and their college-age kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.
I recently spoke with both of them about their new book, The Cure for the “Perfect” Life. Here’s what they had to say:
When did you first realize you wanted to become an author? How did you sense the call of God to write?
Kathi: I’m a speaker by nature, but was told over and over. “If you want to speak, you need to write.” (Which, failing freshman English and being dyslexic, terrified me.) The call of God really didn’t come until after my first book, The Husband Project. I prayed and felt no resistance to writing (except my own,) but now I really do feel God’s pleasure (after my pain!)
Cheri: My first book was published when I was 2. (I’ve attached a photo!) So I’ve always considered myself an author. I felt the yearning to write as a teen whenever I heard Christian women speakers share their testimonies so transparently — I wanted to be able to communicate in such a way that gave hope and healing to others. I attended many trainings in my 20s and 30s, but each time God made it clear that He and I had a LOT of work to do in my life before I’d be ready to write for anyone else!
What propelled you to write a book on such a challenging topic?
Kathi: I tend to write on subjects that keep coming up in my life. This is a subject that showed up repeatedly when Cheri and I spoke. And then I started to see the threads in other relationships and conversations.
Cheri: I wrote and performed a monologue called “The PERFECT(ionism) Crime (http://youtu.be/rzg5Jl4apTI) in 2012 in which I personified Perfectionism and accused him publicly of the crimes committed against the women in my family. I then surveyed my blog readers about the four “P bullies” and was astounded by the detailed responses they gave, telling how these bullies have beaten and controlled them, too.
Why did you choose to co-author The Cure for the “Perfect” Life? What are the benefits of co-authoring and under what circumstances would you recommend it?
Kathi: Cheri has a ton of strengths I don’t have and we’ve worked on projects together that have proven over and over that we balance each other well. I mean, who wouldn’t want to choose their coworkers? That being said, I’ve had one of the hardest years of my life, and have had to rely on Cheri way more than either of us ever expected. I’m grateful Cheri lives out what she writes about – we’ve had brave conversations about expectations, and so far, it’s worked. And if there is a point it doesn’t work, we will have another brave conversation.
With coauthoring, it’s easy to be attracted to people with similar giftings. While it’s fun in the dreaming stages of a book, like a marriage, you need someone who will complement you and your weaknesses. Cheri does that for me.
Cheri: I happened to mention to Kathi on a phone call that I’d come up with a book title: “Good Girls Break Bad Rules.” And she said, “I wish I’d thought of that!” She mentioned it to her agent who said she’d love to see the proposal. Since I LOVE collaboration and synergy, I told Kathi that I would FAR rather write it with her than alone.
The benefits of co-authoring are myriad. Our readers are getting two very different perspectives. We had no trouble divvying up the 12 “bully belief” chapters — it was so clear which were mine and which were Kathi’s! So the right gal wrote the right chapter. Also, Kathi and I have very different strengths/approaches as authors. I’m very good at defining and exploring the problem; Kathi’s amazing at coming up with practical solutions and inspiring women to change. (I’m the “Woah” and “Oww” girl … Kahti’s the “Woo” and “Wow” gal.)
And quite frankly, I would never have been offered a contract to write this book alone. Kathi’s platform and long-term relationship with Harvest House were the key factors in the book becoming a reality.
How did researching and writing this book help you conquer your own struggles with trying-harder living?
Kathi: Sometimes writing down your story is the most powerful thing you can do. When you put a little light on the situation, you can see it from different angles than when you’re in the midst of it. Seeing my own struggles in the light of perfectionism has been eye-opening to say the least. I’m pretty laid back, but when things don’t go according to how I feel they should go, I tend to lose it. Accepting this as not just my reality, but as most women’s, was empowering.
Cheri: I have to write from experience, not just theory. I can’t tell others what they ought to do if I’m not doing it myself. I don’t mean living “perfectly” but I do mean living with integrity. So during the 15 months we had to write this book, I was very conscious that the important thing was the daily journey God was taking me on to battle the bullies and their beliefs. The book was simply (to quote Emily Freeman) the souvenir. Probably the greatest evidence that I’ve made progress is the fact that I didn’t stress during the last two weeks leading up to our deadline. I put in plenty of writing and revising time, but I also kept a (relatively!) clean house, spent time with my family, exercised, showered, ate healthfully, and slept well.
More recently, as in just yesterday, my husband and I missed a flight out of Serbia due to a gate change. We’d been at the original gate for 1.5 hours, but our plane left without us from a different gate; we heard no announcements. It’s cost us over $2,000, and back when the P bullies ruled my life, I would have been in tears. I might have yelled at the ticket agent and demanded that they rebook us without charging us. I would have considered the entire trip “totally ruined.” I would have decided that this meant I was unfit for international speaking and should never accept an international invitation again. What actually happened was very different. I was able to let go of “what should have happened” and focus simply on “what is now happening.” We made the best alternate arrangements we could. I stayed calm and was able to enjoy the rest of the day. I will still talk with customer service and see if we can get our money back; if we can’t, I will not berate or punish myself. I will adjust our family budget and trust God to figure out where that “missing” $2,000+ is going to come from. All of this represents enormous growth for me!
In what ways can readers expect to become braver by reading The Cure for the “Perfect” Life?
Kathi: I think we are brave in numbers. When you read other’s stories and see yourself in them, you will understand that this isn’t just a “me” issue, it’s a “we” issue. When we see that so many of us are struggling with, and conquering, the same issue, it gives us strength to know that God has helped many, and can (and will!) help me.
Cheri: Kathi coined the great phrase “tiny acts of rebellion” and we’re already hearing from readers who are making brave little choices that are having HUGE repercussions, both in their own families and with their friends. One woman turned in a paper that was “done enough” rather than spend two more days fussing over it; she spent those two days enjoying her children and husband. That’s a Tiny Act of Rebellion; that’s BRAVER LIVING! Another woman realized that the frantic activity schedule she’d planned for her three children this fall was entirely driven by the P bullies; she re-assessed everything and made changes that better reflect her family’s values and her children’s needs. That’s a Tiny Act of Rebellion; that’s BRAVER LIVING! Another woman had several unannounced visitors in the same day; instead of fussing over how she looked or how the house looked, she invited each person in warmly and was fully present. That’s a Tiny Act of Rebellion; that’s BRAVER LIVING! Braver Living looks different for each woman: for one woman it might be starting to do something, and for another it might be deciding to stop doing the very same thing. But for each woman, it’s making one small choice to stop living out of fear and start living out of love.
Most of our readers are writers. What will they learn in the pages of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life that they can apply to their writing journeys?
Kathi: Share your story – share your power. People are dying to hear that they are not alone. That if they are broken or damaged, at least there are others who are as well. That’s what writing does, proves to the read that they are not alone.
Cheri: The chapters on procrastination will be especially valuable, as well as the chapter on fear vs. love. I wrote those after spending days avoiding the manuscript, and I finally realized that I was allowing evil /villainy — which says the only way a human being can be motivated is by fear — to win. That startled me into action. Writing should be motivated by love, not fear. I also think the chapter on personalities is valuable — to know your potential weaknesses but especially your strengths and work from those areas of God-giftedness.
What adventures await you after the launch of this book? Do you have another book project in the works?
Kathi: Cheri and I are cooking up another book, but for now I’m working on Clutter-Free (another reoccurring topic that Cheri and I tend to discuss on a daily basis.) It talks about some of the same issues of The Cure, but now it applies to the piles of stuff around our homes (and I know that other authors struggle with that too.)
Cheri: Oh, I hope so! As our launch team responds to the book, I’m thinking, “Oh, we need to address that! Oh, we didn’t think about that! Oh, that’s a great idea we need to explore!”
But the big adventure for me right now is marketing this book for the next year in as many creative ways as possible. It may be the only book I ever have the privilege to write, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest!
Thank you for answering all my questions. I love the book and asked a friend to be my Bravery Buddy and go through it with me–so we can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. I’m sure our readers will want to do the same!
Wife, mother and devoted follower of Christ, Elizabeth M Thompson writes articles and devotionals and is learning the art of fiction writing. She leads weekly TwitterChats at #WritetoInspire and hosts writers conferences and workshops. When she’s not writing or serving the members of Inspire Christian Writers, she loves to ride bikes along the American River with her husband Mike and their children.