The Bell-Sound of Fear

I just finished handspinning a yarn. Yay!

It’s gorgeous. And even though I had no reason to think it would turn out otherwise (the color scheme is great but far from daring) I still had a little crisis of confidence.

Sometimes I only notice I’ve had the crisis as the beautiful relief hits–when I’m certain it’s going to be good. The mounting peal of “is this right is this right” gets cut off and instead there’s clear air to breathe.

I think this is a universal principle, at least of creating.

But creating is everything, from a project at work, to a reorganization of the kitchen, to daydreaming the next fandom post you’re going to make.

Why do we battle fear?

Because making something new is so important.

With a yarn, it’s easy–if I keep going, I know I’ll see if it works. Or I’ll test it, realize it doesn’t, and stop until I work out a solution.

With something bigger, like a novel, you may hit that ringing sound of CRISIS several times.  Where in the process can be personal, but some popular ones are: in the middle of the novel’s drafting process, when setting out to revise, and when sending queries to agents.

Those are the moments where you think “I am actually doing this” and the meaning behind that act becomes clear.

You can’t keep that suspenseful doubt from happening–you can, however, talk to it.

“No, these colors go together. I know that once things fluff up after I’ve set them it looks more finished. This plan makes sense.”

Next post (Wednesday) will be on deconstructing when you’ve making something mean too much, and the fear becomes paralyzing! Because I’ve been working through that recently, too.

The Weight of My Life in Notebooks

I am attacking the last bastion of UnTidied Stuff–I cleared out my storage to sort through at home, which was at this last point all mementos, old manuscripts, and journals.

This has been a trip. Oh, and a trip down memory lane as well.

One thing that stood out to me is that my writing used to be terrible.

It didn’t FEEL terrible. It felt easy, natural. I knew what I wanted on the page and assumed it was there. I wasn’t really sure what happened when I lost interest in a novel before finishing it, and it bothered me, but… I was ready to work on the next thing. (I finished the bulk of my novel projects, so the few unfinished ones really did get on my nerves.)

It is also good to be reminded that my spelling was not good even so late as my mid-teens. :humble pie:

The really constructive thing is definitely seeing that I’ve been learning. At times it’s easy to feel that you’ve been just going around in circles, relearning all the same things. Dialogue doesn’t feel as easy anymore because it wasn’t that great back when I was so confident of it.

I knew this about my childhood stuff.

But even as recently as 7, 5, 3 years ago (when I thought I was ready to be a pro) I wasn’t writing with the knowledge I have now. I have to believe right now that I’m doing well, but could do better.

That’s what kept me writing for the last 18, after all. (Not counting baby journals.)

I don’t regret any of them. But some I’m ready to let go of as keepsakes, because your first few novels are cute. Keeping them all may verge on a mania.

Right, Bethany?



Serial Moving: a Writer Trait?

I accidentally bought the recording of The Thalia Bookclub on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, instead of the audiobook, many moons ago. After disparaging my intelligence, I then figured out how to actually get the book.

It’s actually mainly an interview of the author Susanna Clarke with Neil Gaiman, so the other day I turned it on to listen to as I went on my morning walk. (Turns out it’s great and my money was not wholly wasted!)

Something that struck me in her bio is that she’s another writer who grew up moving around. In her case, as the child of a Methodist minister. But be it as an Army Brat, pastor’s kid, or just a dad moving ahead of “restructuring” in his company (me), a lot of writers seem to have grown up on the fringes.

Maybe not even because of moves. Books are a shelter because they take you into their world unstintingly.

I played Little League baseball and soccer in one house, became a Scottish Highland dancer after a move, then moved somewhere there were no teachers. Went to Japan and joined the softball club, came back to the US and eventually took up yoga. I couldn’t find my identity in these location-based pastimes.

But my journals and books? They moved with me.

I think that’s why I loved fantasy and eventually realized it’s what I wrote. People were in motion, and their lives were changing. That life I understood.

I read Robin McKinley’s bio of books she read where, and saw myself, currently working through the Silmarillion in Japan.

My two favorite releases from this year (so far–I’m not ahead on my reading) are two books that involve girls on the move:

Rebel of the Sands and Girl from Everywhere


Both different in tone and subgenre, I loved them not only for reflecting a reality I knew. Their writers clearly knew what it was to be the girl on the fringes, too.

Maybe someday our peregrinations will cross.

Do you share traits with people you admire, who do the work you want to do? Make this your journalling prompt for the day!

And then sign up for MoJo, with daily journalling prompts like this to help you look into your creative process and history, before registration closes on Friday.


Eavesdropping – On Your Own Mind

Lately I’ve been joining my mom on her walks in the morning. It’s a great opportunity to share what we’re thinking about while in motion and therefore not neglecting some other task!

Sometimes, though, she gets important calls from friends while we’re out walking. I try to get ahead to let her have privacy, but I can’t help listening in a little.

I grew up eavesdropping on my mom’s phone calls. The 90s were a great time for phones, in my memory, and rather than women talking around a kitchen table, most important conversations happened via landline.

I found these a source of great information and interesting ideas–though I had to infer the other side of the conversation.

One of the greatest things was hearing what my mom thought of me and my siblings, things she might not say directly to us. She’s always been fascinated by personality (I come by that one honestly), so I sometimes got to hear breakdowns of our behavior from an external perspective.

I’m sure she knew at least one of us had big ears, and didn’t often express her frustrations. (She recently told me it was a nightmare trying to get me enough reading material–something that doesn’t surprise me, but was successfully hidden from young Bethany!)

Sometimes you need to get things outside of your own head, for perspective on yourself. That can involve talking to someone and saying your thoughts out loud, like my Mom hearing me out on our walks. (We talk directly now about how awesome, or frustrating, I am!)

Or it can mean writing it out. Journaling is a perfect way to make your thoughts become real outside yourself. You can look at them more directly that way.

And it’s more reliable than what you’re willing to say others.

(Thanks for not telling your friends I was a chocolate thief, Mom!)

Have you ever discovered something by journaling? Tell me about it in the comments here or on my Unlock page!

Interested in journaling your way to greatness? Not sure where to start?

Check out Get Back Your MOJO, my new online workshop coming up in July!



celebrating female characters – KDRAMA

Last week, I participated in a fandom-led K-Drama Women’s Week, culminating in International Women’s Day.

A lot of the prompts ask about characters who are sidelined or treated unfairly–and I love the way I get to hear what other fans love about characters.

Some of my own posts:

Rewrite: Character Most Likely to Escape Abusive Relationship – GIL RA IM (Secret Garden)

picking a character who, in retrospect, should have enjoyed herself and then moved on…

Favorite Overseas Returnee: Coffee Prince’s YOO JOO

because Coffee Prince is still just the greatest in some things – the returned ex is a trope that is often deployed thoughtlessly for tension, and this is not one of those

And definitely not least:

Favorite Fridged Mom – PINOCCHIO

She didn’t even get a name, though she got an actress I hope to see in more high-profile projects.

Top Picks from Other Bloggers

Fridged Mom: Arang and the Magistrate (spoiler alert! spoiler alert!)

Favorite Matriarch: Miss Korea

Favorite Lead: Go Dok Mi – Flower Boy Next Door

Celebrate the ladies!

How Journalling Saved My Life

OK, “saved my life” sounds a little dramatic. And when I say that I don’t mean that I was dangling by my fingertips from a cliff, and Journalling Personified scooped me up in their strong, muscled arms.

In this case, “my life” is the life that I want to live. Where I am focused and happy enough to write, increasing my skill level. Where I am secure enough to make new friends, try new things, see new places.

To live as Bethany, not some ghostly shell of her personality.

Journalling, in the method of the Artist’s Way, brought me back to life.

I guess it’s dramatic even when stated more accurately.

Part of why I’m passionate about coaching is that it does what The Artist’s Way course does, with a partner-in-crime who helps you accelerate the process. Asking questions that make you really look at the emotional underpinnings of your failures or blocks. Making you spell it out for yourself.

“I believe I cannot succeed because…”

The good news: once you write or speak the stupid things you believe, because some misinformed or careless person gave you that program to run, you can rewrite that code.

Here’s a great first question to start off with:

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to fixing the problem?”

What problem? Oh, I think you’ll know if you start journalling about it.


There’s a particular rise on the walk I take close to my house with a view that fills me with joy.

If anyone reading this knows where I live, they may find this hilarious. I live in a slightly dumpy bit of Americana plainsland, where cargo trains grumble by at erratic but frequent intervals and cattle eat the fields down to depleted soil.

Still, this slightly hilly overlook on little clumps of houses and lines of trees along creeks makes my heart glad.

I was thinking on my walk yesterday that it probably started from my childhood in New England. Driving through the Massachusetts countryside,  I remember my mom announcing “There’s Fruitlands!”

This sounded delicious. It was a break of meadows and fields amidst the close growth of trees, dramatic and lovely. I didn’t really know (though I’d been told) that it was place of historic importance–I just knew it looked like a storybook place. The words seemed to announce, “Behold! This is very good.”

I was small enough to not know the exact geography and so often wrongly announced, “There’s Fruitlands!” at a totally ordinary area of cleared fields. I wasn’t really thinking of the museum on it (which we perhaps visited) but just that picture.

Oklahoma hardly a forested area, and yet–that scene of country-life among the hills still gives me that feeling. “Behold!”

It is, to me, very good.

Have you found a place that, maybe for an odd reason, makes you glad?