Polly Campbell on the Writing Life and Living Meaningfully

Polly Campbell

Polly Campbell is an established author, writer, podcaster, speaker, and media personality who attracts a broad audience of mothers, boomers, writers, and people who aspire to live healthier, more engaged lives. She is the author of You, Recharged and other personal development books.

Polly connects with her audience through her weekly podcast, Simply Said, her newsletter, blog posts for Psychology Today, articles published in global print and online publications, personal blog posts, and regular television appearances, speeches, and workshops.

Have you always seen yourself as a writer? Was there anything in particular that sparked a love of writing in you?

Yes, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as a writer. It wasn’t a decision, really, but a realization. It seemed like a great way to process and experience the world. To indulge my curiosity. To ask interesting people interesting things in the name of research. Plus, I love notebooks and pens and office supplies so it’s a great excuse to have those laying around. I remember a talk I had with a teacher in second grade after she had completely edited our little student newspaper with her adult words. To her credit, she changed it back and published it. I wrote my own nonfiction publication in the third grade. Kept going from there. As I learned more about psychology and mindset, I became more interested in writing personal development.

In You, Recharged, you talk a lot about your personal recharging journey. What was the moment you realized that you wanted to share that experience and what was it like to put yourself on the page, so to speak?

I was so worn and weary and bored and I was really frustrated by all that. I felt embarrassed that I was so stuck when this world is so amazing. So, I began my own exploration about rediscovering vitality. Turns out several of my friends were also feeling the same: exhausted from parenting and working, not feeling connected, and just going through the motions. When they noticed me losing weight and feeling more energetic, when they felt a shift in my attitude and creativity, it started some discussions. I realized this is a challenge we all face and maybe by sharing my experience, others would benefit. It was probably about a year into my own experience.

What are some things in your life right now that ignite your own vitality? How do you add uplifting things to your day?

Ah, I move my body. Mini workouts, golfing with my husband, stretching on my deck. I write morning pages and meditate. I read things that inspire me. I spend time watching the birds on the back deck or petting my animals. Noticing the little moments of life that we so often miss, the little things that cultivate awe and joy. And I spend time each day—whether a few minutes or an hour—in quiet, just processing and allowing my mind to relax.

Has being a writer shaped the way you look at life?

All experiences shape us if we are paying attention, so perhaps life shaped my writing life too. But yes, I pay attention. I take time to think about ideas, I have learned that the beauty of life is in the imperfection of it, in the process of living. Writing is all about process. You may get a great book out of the process, but you’ve still got to take it one word at a time. That’s what matters most, before you get any outcome. And I am fascinated by human nature, so people-watching, eavesdropping, observing—those things have always been something I’ve done and it certainly has influenced life. I also think that writing requires discipline and persistence and resilience, all things good for life. I’ve had to get better at all those things.

You talk about creating conditions that cultivate inspiration. What sort of “conditions” encourage inspiration in your writing life?

I read great books. Look at beautiful things. Slow down and notice the awesome details around. But I also talk to really smart and creative people. I watch documentaries and videos, and listen to podcasts about things I know nothing about. I try to remain open to things. So often one idea sparks another in the most unexpected ways.

What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles to living meaningfully in 2021?

I think the biggest challenge is how we respond to the world and our challenges, not the events themselves. While our external circumstances change and we get caught up in all that, the politics, the pandemic, the financial stresses, climate issues, racial injustice, violence against women—and these things weigh on me too—they only become a drain when we don’t manage our mindset. When we listen to everything on the news, when we become swayed by the external information without checking in with ourselves. We have big challenges facing us. Scary, hard things. Yet when we respond, we can be proactive. We can do things to improve these conditions. Make a difference. Empower ourselves and others. When get caught in a mindset where we are reactive, angry all the time, and blaming, then we are too worried and tired and stressed to do anything that makes a meaningful difference. We get in our own way. Manage your mindset. Recognize your power. Know that you can hold so much adversity and pain and strength and compassion—all at the same time. We can be stressed and be okay. We can experience obstacles and make a difference.

Is there a recharging practice that you find to be the most fruitful?

Depends on the day. Each day I try to do something for my mind—read a good book, write morning pages, listen to a podcast, some kind of study. For my body I might do a workout, go golfing, stretch, nap. For my spirit, I’ll do a meditation, a quiet contemplation outside, gratitude, mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is quick and dirty and so powerful for me to recharge. I try to tend to each part of my being. It depends on my mood and the time I have. It could take an hour, could take 10 minutes.

On a personal note, how have you been nourishing your soul during these difficult and isolating times? 

Carving out some mental and emotional space through those pockets of quiet I mentioned helps me find perspective. A regular gratitude practice helps. Meditation. And creative action. I’ve explored different creative practices, playing an instrument, doodling, or drawing. Writing different stuff. Also, physical rest. When I’m too tired, I lose perspective, so during the last year I’ve really worked on nourishing my body with rest and food and movement and then finding ways to make stuff. It makes me feel better. Hopeful.

Rapid-fire Questions:

Favorite hobbies?

Reading, golf, watching sports.

A song that’s been stuck in your head?

Ha. September, by Earth Wind & Fire.

Comfort food?

Mac & Cheese

Go-to coffee or tea order?

Venti Americano with four shots.

Last book you read?

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig.

You, Recharged

How to Beat Fatigue (Mostly), Amp Up Your Energy (Usually), and Enjoy Life Again (Always)

Small Steps, Big Energy. Self-help books for women often encourage you to throw out the life you’re living and create a fresh start. You, Recharged isn’t about that. You don’t have to quit your mundane job, cut out cocktails, or sign off of social media to recharge. Instead, Polly Campbell’s inspirational book is about adding things in―good habits, practices, fun, people, activities, self-care strategies―that ignite your essential energy, the sustainable source that fires you up from within and keeps you going during the good and bad.

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