Outspoken and self-assured, Arianna Huffington describes herself as “a former right-winger who has evolved into a compassionate and progressive populist.” Although a registered Republican, Huffington ran for governor of California against Arnold Schwarzenegger as an independent in 2003. She is the founder of The Huffington Post”, a news and commentary website, a co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program Left, Right and Center, and co-host of the radio program 7 Days in America. Divorced from millionaire Michael Huffington in 1997, Huffington is the mother of two teenage daughters.
Huffington says she penned her 11th and most recent book, On Becoming Fearless … in Love, Work, and Life to help her girls become strong, confident women. Part memoir, part self-help guide, the book weaves Huffington’s own formative experiences with essays from successful, well-known women, like Nora Ephron, Diane Keaton and Sherry Lansing. Their stories show through example how women can overcome fears about their bodies, love, parenting, work, money, aging and illness, God and death, leadership, speaking out, and changing the world.
Literary Mama’s Reviews Co-Editor Jen Lawrence spoke with Huffington via email. Her questions were heavily vetted through Huffington’s publicist and, unfortunately, follow-up questions were not answered.
On writing On Becoming Fearless: I was motivated to write the book when, looking at my two teenage daughters, I was stunned to see all the same classic fears I had been burdened with when I was their age. I had thought that with all the gains feminism has brought, my daughters would not have to suffer through the fears I did. Yet there they were, as uncertain, doubting, and desperately trying to fulfill the expectations of others. I set out to explore what had happened to my bold little girls.
Writing about my family — and about my fears — was obviously more emotional than writing about the latest happenings in Washington. While it was occasionally difficult, it didn’t make sense to write this kind of book without being willing to be vulnerable about my own battles with fear. The personal aspect is actually one of the things that most appealed to me. After concentrating on politics, I liked the idea of tackling a subject that cut across partisan lines. Because whatever our political views, there are so many more things that unite us than divide us, like our fears, and the need to get beyond them if we are to live a more fulfilling life.
I knew what areas I wanted to cover, and what parts of my own journey I wanted to highlight. As for the process itself, I wish I had the time to work on the book uninterrupted, but all the various things going on in my life — especially family and keeping up with the HuffPost’s 24/7 news cycle — didn’t allow for that. So I was constantly juggling things. Luckily, I’m pretty good at multi-tasking.
On the relationship between blogging and writing a book: Using my blog to try out parts of the book — and incorporating the instant feedback I got in the comments section — was invaluable. It helped me work out and shape my thoughts on the book. One of the great strengths of blogging is that it’s immediate, unadorned, and raw. I found that being in “blog mode” actually helped free me up when I shifted to “book mode.” Plus, the personal nature of the book meshed very well with the intimate and passionate nature of blogging.
On balancing mothering with writing: I often think that when the doctors take the baby out of you, they replace it with a combination of fear and guilt. From that point on, both the baby and the guilt start to grow, as does the fear that we are not doing enough. Becoming a mother changes so much. There is nothing that can bring you closer to fearlessness about everything else in the world than being a parent — because everyday fears like not being approved of pale by comparison to the fears you have about your children.
The conflict between wanting to be with my kids and wanting to do the work that has been such a central part of my life is tremendous, and was even more so when my daughters were younger. But I’ve been lucky in that I was already established as a writer by the time my kids came along — and also because, as a writer, I can do my work at home.
On walking the line between personal and confessional writing: I’m not sure that dark has to always go along with deep. This was certainly the most personal book I’ve written — and the most revealing. One of the things I’ve learned from my new life as a blogger is that there is nothing that people respond to more than writing that is raw, intimate, and unfiltered. So that is the approach I took with this book. It was challenging at first, but ultimately very freeing.
On facing harsh judgment: I’ve been faced with the judgments of others since my first book (The Female Woman), which was published when I was 23. If you read that book now, it’s not at all controversial, because it’s really where we are today, which is that women who choose to be mothers should be fully respected. But back then it was considered such a vicious attack on feminism that the publicist at Random House refused to publicize it.
At the time, it was really hard to take the criticism that followed [the publication of the book]. Over the years, I’ve learned not to let it get to me, and it’s gotten progressively easier to deal with. By the time we launched The Huffington Post, the naysayers and doubters were just a small blip on the radar that didn’t in any way affect my decisions. Fearlessness is like a muscle — the more we use it, the stronger it becomes. The more we act on our dreams and our desires, the more fearless we become and the easier it is the next time.