How can we accept imperfection as writers while still striving for excellence? How can we make space for going deeper into our writing while managing a busy life? Beth Kempton talks about The Way of the Fearless Writer in this wide-ranging interview on the creative mindset.
In the intro, when life throws a curveball and writing in the midst of chaos, Useful tutorials for writers including Scrivener, Rule of the Robots by Martin Ford, Moonshots and Mindsets; and AI narrated audio on KWL.
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Beth Kempton is a Japanologist and the author of multiple non-fiction books including Freedom Seeker, Wabi Sabi, and her latest book, The Way of the Fearless Writer. She also runs multiple creative businesses, and is a podcaster, speaker, course creator, and also co-hosts retreats.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- How Beth’s disillusionment with the corporate world led to her business, starting with courses, and the books emerged from that
- Integrating a passion for all things Japanese with creativity and business
- How the concept of wabi-sabi can help writers with an acceptance and appreciation of the impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete nature of everything
- Embracing the imperfection of being human, not a machine — and how we can apply that to our writing and our books
- Writing fearlessly, tapping into flow, and keep a part of your writing practice sacred
- Balancing time between books, business, creativity, and family — and how Beth utilizes planning and seasonality
- The importance of saying ‘no’
Transcript of the interview
Joanna: Beth Kempton is a Japanologist, and the author of multiple nonfiction books, including ‘Freedom Seeker,’ ‘Wabi Sabi,’ and her latest book, ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer.’ She also runs multiple creative businesses and is a podcaster, speaker, course creator, and also co-hosts retreats. So welcome, Beth.
Beth: Thank you so much. What a joy to be here, Joanna. Thanks for having me.
Joanna: I’m excited to talk to you today. So, first off,
Tell us a bit more about how you became a writer and a creative entrepreneur, and also how your experiences in Japan impact your books and business now.
Beth: It’s so funny hearing you do the intro. I feel quite exhausted listening to all those things I do. And I think it’s really important to say I don’t do them all at the same time.
I’ve had my own business for 12 years now, and I do a retreat every couple of years, whatever, you know, over that time. I’ve not done that many, and I spread things out. I’ve done five books in five years, and that has taken a huge amount of time and attention, as you know.
And I think I feel quite fortunate that we started our business 12 years ago with online courses, really, before many people were doing online courses. Especially in the kind of self-help and personal development arena, there was hardly anything around, especially on this side of the pond. And so it’s been amazing to have that foundation already built.
And then the books have kind of come out of that, rather than writing a book and having to then do all the stuff after that. But I just wanted to say that I think it can be quite intimidating to hear that stuff. And, you know, I’ve got two children at home and do run three businesses, but it’s the day-to-day is slow progress, even when you look back on it, and it feels like quite a lot. So, I’m grateful, absolutely, for…
Joanna: I completely get that.
Beth: …for doing it this way.
Joanna: This podcast has been going since 2009.
Beth: It’s amazing. And I think for people who are just coming into the arena can feel like there’s so much catching up to do.
And there isn’t at all, because, actually, I was probably the same for you when you started your podcast. The technology was so different, and so, like, clunky, and difficult, and expensive. And so even if you don’t have that particular foundation, it’s a lot quicker to start doing new things, I think. So, I’ll answer your question now.
Joanna: That was a great way to start, as well. Because you’re right, starting now. If you were starting now, you might start on TikTok, for example. And personally, I’m not going anywhere near TikTok. So, it depends when you start. But yes, tell us more about Japan.
Beth: Yes, sure. So, I did Japanese at university, not because I was a linguist. I was the opposite of a linguist. But because I had a massive ‘aha’ moment when I was 17, it made me ditch all my convictions that I should be an accountant, and in the space of a few weeks had to figure out something else to do that would allow me to go on an adventure.
And I decided that learning a language would be a good idea and…except the universities in the UK at the time wouldn’t let you study a language at university if you had not done it at A-Level. So, I ended up looking at the ones I could do, which kind of got narrowed down to Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. I did eeny, meeny, miny, mo.
And it’s so weird to think of that now. Because Japan always…even though it’s so different to the England or the UK that I grew up in, it always felt completely familiar in a way I can’t really explain. And so I can’t imagine the eeny, meeny, miny, mo would ever have worked out anyway, apart from landing on Japanese because it’s always just felt like such a natural fit for me.
After university, I went and lived and worked in Japan and then came back into a Master’s in Japanese. And then, actually, my career took me into the corporate world with some connections to Japan, but much more on the corporate side, and it’s actually in the world of international sport.
I got disillusioned with the corporate world, as many people do, and that’s what led to me setting up my company: Do What You Love.
I really wanted to have much more direct contact with people to help them figure out ways to make the most of their precious life and to do what they love.
And, actually, in the first few years, it was really difficult to find a way to weave my Japanese experience, and knowledge, and everything into my work. It felt like it was being forced.
The first online course we did was called Do What You Love, and it shows that you can make an online course out of anything. My friends always said to me, ‘You seem so jammy. I’ve had some incredible adventures, and most of them, I haven’t paid for. And I don’t mean that people have just given me free holidays, but as in just serendipity has happened, and I’ve ended up trading my time for amazing experiences or being somewhere when something crazy has happened because I just said yes to something.
And my friends kept telling me, like, that’s not normal. You know, everyone who’s coming out of university going straight into these fast-track management programs. That’s not how they’re living their life, and it’s really interesting. And you should probably tell people about it.
That very much became the beginning of the company. And I built all these courses to help people just make the most of this precious life, which has been a thread through all of my work, including all my books. I wrote my first book six years into the business, after basically having a bit of a meltdown myself.
Ironically, the business was doing so well that I was…and I had business partners, and I just ended up following the money, I guess.
It was working really well, so we said ‘Let’s do more of the things that are working,’ without stopping to think, hang on a minute, Am I doing what I love?
And I had one toddler and a baby. No, not a baby. I was pregnant. And one day, it just got too much for me, and I just like collapsed on my bedroom floor, and I just had these visions of this person I used to be, which wasn’t anywhere near the person I was at that moment.
And so it became a really big question about feeling free. And I thought, maybe this is a big enough question to be a book, and that led to me writing ‘Freedom Seeker.’ Which wasn’t easy, but I think taught me how to write a book.
And then my second book became the opportunity to bring my Japanese experience into these ideas about how do we live well. And all that influence I’d…some of it by osmosis, and some of it by very, very hard to study.
Joanna: I love what you’ve told us so far about your sort of career trajectory. So it’s not a trajectory. It’s kind of these sort of weaving shapes, and you’ve had ups and downs, obviously, and you talked about a meltdown there.
But also, you mentioned the word jammy, which people don’t know English. So British English, sort of lucky. You’re someone who’s a bit lucky, a bit jammy, ‘oh, you jammy thing.’
But yeah, it’s really interesting how you leaned into your passion, but also took opportunities as they arose. Before we get into ‘The Fearless Writer,’ I wanted to ask about the ‘Wabi Sabi’ book because I love this idea.
What is wabi-sabi, and how can that attitude help writers and online entrepreneurs, creative entrepreneurs?
Beth: Well, wabi-sabi is a beautiful phrase in the Japanese language that isn’t in the Japanese dictionary, even though every Japanese person I’ve ever spoken to intuitively knows what it is. I can’t think of a word in English that is the same: that we all know it, and it’s really important in our life, but it’s not in the dictionary. It’s not slang.
And so that made me very curious, and also incredibly wary about writing a book about this, essentially defining a term in someone else’s language that doesn’t have its own definition in that language. And so I hesitate to give one specific definition, but I would say that the definition that we’ve been using in the West, which is really as an adjective to describe a particular look of objects.
Wabi-sabi was named a global design trend for things that are kind of natural, organic, warm-looking. But the fact that it was named this global design trend shows how little the people using it understood what it meant, and that, actually, it has a very deep meaning and lessons for us all.
And so after all of my many, many conversations and explorations into it, I came to see it as meaning three things, really.
It is an intuitive response to beauty, the kind of beauty that reminds us of the true nature of things, which is why people, I think, have made this connection and use it as an adjective, even though Japanese people don’t use it as an adjective.
A worn, old farmhouse table that people have had conversations over for 40 years, and that elbows have rubbed it and all that stuff, that’s really telling us about how things change in time, that that kind of beauty is in it. It’s not perfect and shiny, but there’s a real beauty in that piece. So that’s really the kind of beauty that it refers to.
It’s also an acceptance and appreciation of the impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete nature of everything.
And when we properly think about that, and take it on board, it’s just such a relief. Because the word perfect means something is finished. Right? But nothing is ever finished.
Impermanence is a fundamental kind of rule of nature. Everything is transient, everything is changing all the time. And so nothing can be perfect, because nothing is ever completely finished, and that includes us. We’re works in progress.
So it’s crazy that we should aim for perfection and let this complete obsession with perfection get in the way of us putting our creative work out in the world because it’s never finished. That acceptance of imperfection is a huge part of any writer’s journey, I think.
And just to finish off answering the question, that the third kind of definition is that it’s a reminder of the gifts of a simple, slow, and natural way of living, which I think is actually a really lovely approach to creativity, as well.
You know, we make it really complicated sometimes when we think we have to have all these apps, and things, and perfectly organized rooms. And I don’t know what, but we make it complicated when it’s really just breathe, write, repeat.
Joanna: Well, that’s interesting. I think why this resonated with me. As we record this, I’ve come back from a pilgrimage, stepping away from the business.
And I’ve had quite a lot of emails from people almost asking for permission to do the same thing in the same way that I have asked ‘permission’ from other creatives, permission in inverted commas, you know. We feel like we have to just keep on going.
But you mentioned there, that worn old table in a farmhouse, and then imperfection. And I also am very interested in AI technology, and robotics, and all this stuff.
But we’re not the Terminator. You can’t go on every day, every day. And every day you must write, you must meditate, you must look after your children, you must do your exercise. That isn’t us.
We have to embrace the imperfection of being a human, not a machine.
And like you said, you lay down on the floor that day, having a meltdown. But in a way, that’s just your response to doing too much. And I feel like this idea of wabi-sabi in that imperfection being beautiful is something that’s so important, but how do you balance that, as someone who puts out a finished product of a book?
Beth: Oh, I have a story to tell you about that. But this idea of us as ever-changing creative creatures, ourselves, as well, I think it’s really important to allow ourselves to be different versions in a day, in a year.
I mean, my work is incredibly seasonal in terms of when I write and things. My emotions are different when it’s a dark, wet winter, versus when it’s bright, shiny, sunshine outside, and all of that.
And also, as we age, what is important to us when we’re 20 might be different to what’s important or interesting to us as a writer when we’re 50 or 80.
And I think that’s really interesting to pay attention to and not fixate on, I’m this kind of creative person, and I write these kinds of things. And that, again, flies in the face of, you have to be known for something, you have to do, you have to be consistent and deliver what people expect, and I think that’s a load of rubbish myself.
Joanna: I think if you do that, you burn out in your genre, and also the reader knows.
Beth: Yes, and you stop being interested in it, you know, which is…
Joanna: It becomes just another job.
Beth: Exactly, exactly. But to come back to the perfection in the books, I’m incredibly lucky that my publisher do such a beautiful job with them. I mean, this recent one, ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer,’ it’s got sun on it with a reflection on water, and it’s just utterly gorgeous.
And they’re incredibly professional. It goes through a lot of people checking different things. Ultimately, I 100% take responsibility for what is on the inside of the book. Obviously, I’m consulted on the cover, but the outside of the book is really the publisher’s responsibility.
But with this particular book, just a week ago, Oh my goodness. I realized that one of the Japanese characters in the book is wrong.
There’s two sentences back to back where the character in the first sentence has been repeated in the second sentence instead of the correct character being given. And I had that awful knot in my stomach when I realized it. It’s like, oh, my goodness, this is just awful. I’m not teaching people Japanese at all, and this book is about helping people to write. But I want to give people correct information.
And then, obviously, if they are interested in a particular area of what I’m talking about, they can dive deeper into that area. But I don’t wanna give people wrong information. Right? And it’s only one word out of 50,000 words.
But that’s when I practiced the teachings from wabi-sabi. And I absolutely did that then, and I do it all the time. And it’s acceptance, it’s alignment with the truth of the present moment. Right?
So what is true about this moment? Okay, there is an error in this printed book. Who knows how many thousands of copies of this book are already printed? Because it’s coming out in a few days’ time from when I discovered the error in the distribution system. That’s a fact. Okay. What can I do about it? So, obviously, I let my editor know.
Joanna: Well, you know, this is a special edition! It’s like, if you get one, you’re lucky,
Beth: Yeah, you better rush out and get one. Because I’ll tell you what, that print run is going to be done soon, and then the next one’s not going to be wrong. Exactly. But it’s so interesting because it was like, wait, what do I need to do?
I need to let my editor know and apologize. And I read that finished manuscript, I don’t know, 20 times. I paid three individual experts to read it, two of which are Japanese, and one is a Japanese professional translator. They did a brilliant job, and I don’t know how it slipped through all of our nets.
So, I think it’s important for us to take responsibility, but also, I’m like, it just happened. And I actually have a page on my website of errors in my books, because there’s a typo in nearly all of them.
It’s almost like this is a reminder of imperfection. It’s fine, you did your absolute best, and stuff happens.
Nobody died. Do better next time if you can, or perhaps you won’t. Because one typo in every book is really…For someone who wrote a book on wabi-sabi is actually a lovely reminder, if you can get over the pain of it and crack on.
Joanna: And I can’t believe there’s just one. All of us have at least one.
Joanna: Let’s get into ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer’, because I think it’s a really daunting title, and I feel like fear is such a part of the writing life.
What fears have you had to face around writing? And what does fearless mean in this creative context?
Beth: Fearless writing, or writing fearlessly, is having the willingness and ability to choose your writing path and write as your authentic self.
So there’s a whole load of fears connected to speaking your truth in the world, for sure. But I think what happens is… in many, many cases, is that we tend to bring all of our fears to the writing desk.
And I don’t have a recollection of a single time that I’ve been writing and thinking about how my writing is going to be received in the world, or what I want to happen to it in terms of sales, whatever, have ever helped me. Not once.
So, for me, a big part of this process of becoming a fearless writer is learning to separate which kinds of writing are just for you. And it doesn’t mean they’ll never get shared. But the point of writing, well, it’s not for anyone else’s eyes. And what kind of writing is eventually intended for somebody else’s eyes?
And that immediately shuts a huge amount of fears outside the door. There’s no place for them, because this is just for me. I’m just writing.
I’m either writing the junk that’s in my head onto the piece of paper, or I’m in a space of deep writing, where I feel like I’m kind of being written, and that’s all just spilling onto the page.
You can feel incredibly vulnerable because what you write can be very raw, it can be incredibly beautiful, and you don’t understand where it came from. It can be very wise.
And if you’ve never written like that before, it’s a very strange experience. But that’s where all the gold is.
But the thing is, flow in the writing isn’t the same as flow in the reading. There’s a whole load of work to be done afterwards to get it ready for the outside world. If you’re editing between brain and page when you’re trying to get the juice that’s deep inside you onto the page, nothing’s coming out. You’re not going to have any problem with anyone criticizing your work because it’s not going to get out in the world.
So I think, first of all, really understanding what your fears are and where they arise, and being able to separate them out and keep them at a distance from your sacred writing space is a huge thing to do.
And I can genuinely say that I have almost no fear in terms of writing words onto the page, just the writing of words on the page. Any fear that I have, and I think I will have for the rest of my life because it’s part of what it is to put your creative work out in the world as human being, is to do with when it’s shared with other people. And there are definitely strategies to help you with that, and I’ve put lots of them in the book, but that’s where all of my fear lies.
I write nonfiction, so I don’t know how well this would work for fiction. Maybe I’ll try it one day and come back and tell you. But certainly, for nonfiction, I actually write my manuscript in tiny pieces, and it’s almost put together more like a jigsaw at the end.
So I don’t have a draft, what somebody would call a first draft until incredibly late in the process, way after maybe a month, six weeks before it gets submitted to the publisher.
And I’ve actually done quite a lot of work shaping smaller pieces before, and then I put them all together, and then fiddle with that. And so until that point, I’m not really thinking much about what’s gonna happen to it when it’s out in the world.
But I don’t want to give the impression that commercial success doesn’t make any difference to a writer. If you want to make it your full-time job, then it might make a difference. But even so, as a professional writer, as in somebody who gets paid…obviously, an author, someone who gets paid to write books, it’s been absolutely essential to be able to learn how to do that. And I didn’t with ‘Freedom Seeker,’ and it was so hard. But it makes a huge difference when you can do that.
Joanna: It’s interesting. It sounds like you’re a discovery writer, which I am, too, which is, I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to write before I sit down and write.
Beth: Absolutely. And I know lots of people say they do know. But I would encourage those people to try not knowing because I don’t think that we can…I think to assume that we know the best version of what we could write is almost…I don’t want to say arrogant, but I know that what comes out when I try not to control it is way better than if I sat here and tried to make my sentence into the thing in my head.
Joanna: I think there are very different types of books, and different types of processes, and different personalities. But I’m interested in how you talk about flow there. You also mentioned your words being written as if they were kind of going through you.
What’s your creative process? Are there things that you do to get into a state where you can enter that creativity?
Beth: Absolutely. And I do go into this in a lot of detail in ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer,’ the kind of deeper state of writing, which I call ‘liquid state writing.’ That’s the only kind of writing where it feels like I’m being written, I’m really not in control of it in terms of, as soon as I’m aware that I’m doing it, I’m not doing it anymore. It’s quite like meditation, to be honest. You enter that kind of writing.
And I believe anyone can do this. I don’t think it has anything to do with personality or anything like that. I think it’s about creating a mindset that you can have a sacred writing space. And that doesn’t mean a physical space, necessarily, but a quiet place where you metaphorically will actually shut the door on the outside world and all the noise, and you enter this space. And how you enter that space will depend on what you like.
But, for example, you can use some simple breathing. I mean, literally just in, out slowly, deeply. I don’t mean a complicated breathing technique, just breathing slowly and deeply to center yourself and bring yourself into that writing experience.
You might like to light a candle. Because the lovely thing about a candle is that you open the experience with the candle. And then when you blow out that candle, you’re rounding off the ritual at the end., so it feels like a lovely circular thing. And then I often use a spark, like, a kind of catalyst for the writing, which gives you a very, very loose direction. But essentially, it’s not to control what you’re writing, it’s to take you away from getting stuck in what’s in your head.
So if you only do journaling, and you only spill what you can see in your head, like all the things you’re worried about, or the things that you’re ruminating about, if you only journal and put those on the page, you can get stuck in a cycle of only ever talking about that.
But if you have a beautiful ritual like this, and then your spark is something like a poem written by somebody else, or a question, or a beautiful paragraph from a nature book, or anything at all, and then you just read it to yourself out loud all just on the page, and then you start to write. And it’s incredible what comes out.
Sometimes you don’t even have to have a spark. You could just write. I often do this. I very often get up at 5:00. Well, I’m at my desk at 5:00 in the morning because I have two little children. And it’s such a gorgeous time of day. I make a really big effort to not have strong sensory stimulus between getting out of bed and getting to my desk.
I go downstairs in the dark, and have very low lighting, make my tea, have a stretch, and then go to my writing desk without absolutely not checking email or my phone or even putting on music, to be honest, and just trying to keep myself as close as possible to that special state of kind of just waking up.
And then if you have a ritual at that time, it…I mean, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it at five o’clock in the morning, you can do whenever you like. But I think part of that for me is because I’ve been doing it for such a long time. But in that period of quiet and darkness, I think can really help, as well. It’s amazing what comes out.
So, I would really encourage people to try it, but also to round off that ritual, to blow out the candle, or repeat the breathing that you did at the beginning, whatever, and then open the door and go back into your life, knowing that you’ve had this time for your writing, whether it’s 10 minutes, or two hours, or whatever it is, and just develop it as a practice without feeling all the time like, I’ve got to write a book, or I haven’t published a blog post in ages, or I need to do XYZ. I mean, just enjoy it, and I promise that over time, there will be gems in what you come up with. And you’ll fall in love with it, if you’ve fallen out of love with it.
Joanna: I think it’s so important. And it reminds me actually of Steven Pressfield in ‘The War of Art’ where he talks about his prayer to the muse. I have a painting on my wall. It’s very small, and it is my muse that I have here next to me.
Even if people…if you don’t have a specific part of your house, you can go somewhere else, or just anything to make that writing time more special.
You’re honoring a creative part of yourself in a special way that separates it from the job of being a writer.
And you have the businesses and everything, but I like that you’ve created almost, like, just a separation between the creativity and then the job.
Beth: It’s so true. I don’t light a candle before I send an email to my editor.
Joanna: Well, I didn’t like a candle before talking to you. Sorry, Beth!
Beth: I did light a candle before talking to you. But yeah, it’s totally…it’s so true. And I think one of the things to talk about in the book is the idea of desirelessness and not having a fixed idea or attachment to a particular result, and that both meet that. Both what a piece of writing will become.
And I really struggled with that with my first book. I wanted it to be a massive bestseller, and I wanted it to be the perfect book and all of this. And it turned out to be, I think, a much better book than the one I had in my head, but I had to surrender any of those notions before I actually managed to write anything. But also having any fixed idea of what success is gonna look like specifically.
And that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to visualize seeing your book in a bookshop, because that can help it feel more real. But what I’m talking about is saying, if it’s not a ‘Sunday Times’ top 10 bestseller, it’s a failure, and it is that specific kind of… That’s the only metric that’s going to make me think it’s worth something. Letting go of that for the writing part of the job absolutely does not mean not being strategic and savvy in the business part of the job.
So, I absolutely have a plan, and I absolutely build my network and my community and do everything I can to get the word out without being attached to a particular way that that is going to unfold, or what success for that book is going to look like.
For me, the success of that book has already happened.
I got to spend four months of my life exploring a really interesting question, walking up and down the river, having coffee, talking to interesting people, learning more about the things I love.
So it’s already successful to me. And I got paid to write it, which is a bonus, you know. But in my business, I’m incredibly strategic. That’s my job. And so you can be both things, but I think what’s really important to do is to not connect the writing, the sacred writing process, with the outcomes in the material world. It makes a huge difference.
Joanna: Absolutely. And there’s so much in your books. And as I told you, I got a review copy, but I’ve also ordered several in hardback because I find them really valuable for reminding me about what I already know.
So much of this stuff is reminding ourselves of what we already know and coming back to things. So that really helped me. But before we run out of time, I do want to ask you about the business side.
You mentioned you have three businesses, obviously, you’ve got do what you love, and you’ve got other things. You produce all this content, you have a family, and you sound like a multi-passionate creative, which I am, too. You know, can’t just do one thing.
How do you balance your time, and also almost switch heads between your creative and business work?
Like, to me, that sacred creative space is a different head. The person who’s talking to you now, this is like a different head to my J.F. Penn fiction writer head, for example. So, how do you balance your time and switch between all these different facets?
Beth: Well, I think the most important thing is, I talk a lot to my family about it. And so we very much kind of approach it like a team, like we’re all building something together, including our children. And so they’re being quiet, or doing a drawing while I’m doing an interview or something. They understand that’s connected to what we’re trying to make.
And my husband’s actually my partner in the business. So, that helps, as well, for sure. But I think communication is a huge thing.
And then in terms of the actual time, on an annual basis, it’s very seasonal for me.
I’ve got into a lovely rhythm of winter, so January to April, so kind of winter to very early spring is when I write my books. I tend to have about six months to write a book. And I usually get a pitch in autumn, and then I get the deal in kind of late November, December. And then January to April, it’s written.
And then, like, my next deadline is May the First. And during that time, the two businesses that are not my main business. They have teams, it’s like staffed fully. Those teams are brilliant, and they know I only email on Wednesdays.
So if they need something from me, it needs to be in my inbox by Wednesday morning. And if it’s not clear, they can’t come back to me on Thursday, or they have to wait until the next Wednesday, or figure it out themselves. And it’s actually been amazing for the teams. Everyone’s completely stepped up, and it’s only worked because I really stuck to it. Like, if I started emailing on Friday, then it’s just confusing for everyone. And so for that time, it works.
And both my business partners have written books, as well. So that helps because they understand. And I couldn’t do that all year round and run my businesses, for sure. But I think it’s because it’s such a concentrated period of time, it’s easy to explain.
And then spring and summer, it’s a very different energy, and I’m very connected with my community. And I teach a lot, and I’m very involved in the business. And we do all our annual planning for the businesses in the summer. So we plan January to December the following year in the summer, and we have our biggest sales of the year for all the businesses in November.
So we need to know everything we’re going to be selling the following year in order to have it in the sale in November. So that means the teams can then use from summer up to November to get ready for the big sales, that kind of thing.
So, spring and summer, I’m doing all that and planning the promotion for my books, which then tend to come out in October. And then I tend to do podcasting from October to December, and then close the door, get my cup of tea, and go back to the writing desk. So that’s the kind of year.
And then on a like day-to-day basis, between May and December, when I am doing both, I’m actually more likely to have the five o’clock in the morning start. Because January or April, I might be writing eight hours in a row. So not necessarily doing the super early start sometimes, but it’s dark, you know. Very dark, and, cold and wet. So, I could do the same at 6:30, and it still look the same.
During the week, I do definitely block out chunks of time. I’m quite good at not flitting from one thing to another.
Anytime I feel overwhelmed, it’s because I’ve stopped doing one thing at a time.
My husband literally put on a post-it on my computer the other day, like, one thing at a time. And I plan ahead a lot.
So, the launch for this book was October launch. You know, I was making content for that in June. So, it’s all very…So it doesn’t feel like a big rush. And that’s come from hard experience, for sure.
We always try and encourage all of our staff to not overwork, and to stick to their job description, and not do more than they need to. And if something’s not working, then to tell us about it rather than just do loads of work. Because, obviously, it didn’t work out well for me when I ignored that. And so I think we have a good balance.
I say no to an awful lot of things.
So from January to April, I do almost no media interviews, because my personality is that that takes up a huge amount of psychic space. I’d much rather someone sent me an email and gave me three days to reply to them, and I could just write it, you know.
Like a live big interview or something, or a big event speaking on a stage, I can do it, but it just takes me a lot of headspace to prepare for it because I want to do a good job. And that’s the control freak in me who I’ve been working very hard to shift to the side.
So I think being aware of that is really important. For some people, there’s nothing they love more than talking to someone, and wouldn’t bat an eyelid to just jump straight on a podcast, and so that’s not a consideration for them. But I think I understand myself quite well in terms of how I work and try and play to that, rather than force something.
As a writer, I think it’s really important, as well, to talk about that. As a writer, there is so many ways to get your words out in the world.
If there’s a particular kind of media that makes you so terrified, you can’t get out from under your desk, and you lose like three weeks to anxiety, then just don’t do it. Like, nobody says you have to do a podcast interview or whatever. You are right if you want…If all you ever want to do is write about your words and never speak about them, that is possible. And I think it comes back to that permission thing, doesn’t it?
It’s good to push yourself because they’re all great opportunities. But if it’s damaging to you, it’s also okay to not do it.
Joanna: Fantastic. And in fact, the gate of formlessness, this part of the book is this aspect of water and creativity, which you talked a bit about liquid writing.
But I guess with water, it finds its own level. And you can try and box it in, but you’re going to get leaks. And I say that because we’ve got a leak in our bathroom right now!
Beth: Water on the brain.
Joanna: Yeah, but I respect that you have found ways to say no and that you’ve learned what works for you. Again, I feel like these are things I know about myself, but I keep having to remind myself.
Like speaking, as well, like you said, I really struggle to be in crowds, basically. So big events. And I recently decided not to go to an event in Las Vegas, because I just can’t deal with it. It’s just exhausting, and then I get sick. So we have to learn to say no. And like it sounds like you’ve been able to do that really well. Did you always have that, or did you learn that over the time you’ve been running your own business?
Beth: Oh, no, I definitely didn’t know it. Definitely. I’ve learned from going all sorts of wrong. And also, I think because I was a lot more confident when I was young in terms of talking on stage and things like that, I…just didn’t bother me.
And then the older I’ve got, the more I have to…I don’t know, I just overthink it, maybe. But I think it’s so interesting to hear you say that. Because when I think of you, I think of someone who does an awful lot of events.
And one thing that we often don’t do, I think in the same way that a freelancer might have an hourly rate for something that they produce but don’t take into consideration the, you know, prep time, or the whatever time, or somebody who goes to work in office doesn’t take into account the value of the time it takes them to get there, whatever, we often undercut our own value, just thinking about the time on the job.
And I think when it comes to doing things like speaking if it’s not completely natural and utter joy for you, and it doesn’t give you energy, which, obviously, certain personality types.
If it drains your energy, then that recovery time needs to be built into how many days you’re giving to this job. And is it worth it?
Like, what is the opportunity cost of that? If it takes you two weeks to recover, and you could have been writing in that time. Maybe it is because it is a one-off unbelievable event, but maybe it’s not.
And I think the older I get, the more I realized that we get to choose. Surely, if you’re running your own business, one of the reasons is probably because you want to be able to choose, and there isn’t somebody who’s sat around the corner waiting for you to come around, and they’re going to go, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do that.’ You have to give that permission to yourself.
Joanna: Absolutely. Now, I feel like we could talk about this forever, but we are out of time.
Where can people find your books and everything you do online?
Beth: Thanks, Joanna. ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer’ is my new book, and I’m just about to launch ‘The Fearless Writer’ podcast, which will run weekly until Christmas with a writing exercise in it. So, please do come and listen to that. It will be on iTunes and Spotify from October the 11th, maybe after this is already out. It might already be out there, you can go and listen. I’m on Instagram @BethKempton, and all my courses are at DoWhatYouLoveForLife.com
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Beth. That was great
Beth: Thank you. And thank you for your generosity, Joanna. You’re a shining light. I know you’ve helped so many people. What a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Joanna: Thank you.
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Author: Joanna Penn