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Life, death and life again. (A glimpse of my latest book)

A glimpse of my new book KOKORO 心: Japanese wisdom for a life well lived… and something special for you when you pre-order this sequel to WABI SABI


Tip your ear to the sky and you’ll hear echoes of ancestral birdsong telling the story of a slain emperor, a fleeing prince and a mystical three-legged crow, a yatagarasu, guiding him to safety. Follow the whispers of the wind and you’ll discover that the tomb atop this mountain venerates that prince, who remained in this forest and gave his life to mountain worship, as the crow gave its name to the land.

Put your ear to the earth and you’ll hear this mountain speak of gods and ghosts. Press your skin to the bark of this old tree and you’ll learn of the strange shadow that once passed over this place and the cloaked man who ran behind it.

Come as a pilgrim, offer silence as you climb, and you might just hear a welcome.

Yōkoso. I am Black Wing Mountain.’

As one of the three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan, Hagurosan (lit. ‘Black Wing Mountain’) is said to represent the present and earthly desires. People have journeyed to Hagurosan for centuries, often travelling hundreds of miles on foot, to pray for health and good fortune in this life. This is where our story begins.

As I read these words aloud on day one of recording the audiobook version of my new book KOKORO, I had an out-of-body experience in the small black booth. As I spoke I was back on the first of the three sacred mountains I climbed during the toughest year of my life, feet in jika tabi (split-toed white boots), scrambling, grieving, unravelling, and at the same time I was in the kitchen of our small cottage, making cheese on toast. Wild woman and domesticated mama, everything overlapping, forming and reforming in strange rhythm like a pumping heart.

People don’t really talk about audiobook recordings, but in some ways, they are even more personal than paper books. It’s me, in your ears, sharing encounters, confessing secrets, whispering words of hope.

Recording for three days straight in a small soundproof booth is full-on. It reminds you of the preciousness of every single word. And there is nowhere to hide.

In KOKORO you are invited to join me on a pilgrimage deep into the Japanese countryside and into our inner lives. It has mountains, moons, and even a sprinkling of actual magic. For the three days I was in the studio I was back there in Japan listening, watching, chanting, questioning, seeking, surrendering. Back there at my mother’s side as she faded. Back there asking the questions that other people do not ask, being open to whatever answers might come.


During the recording there were tears, laughter and even some dancing. There was Xavier Rudd. There is always Xavier Rudd.

KOKORO: Japanese wisdom for a life well lived is the follow up to my earlier book WABI SABI: Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life. Five years in the making, tracing wisdom that goes back more than a thousand years, it’s hard to believe that after so much shapeshifting she is finally, at last, almost here.

On Friday I hung up my headphones and closed the door on the booth one final time. My producer made us a cup of tea, and we joined a colleague who was busy searching for the perfect bell sound to use in the recording.

‘So now this one is done, what are you writing next?’ he asked me, casually, in between gongs and temple bell samples.

‘You know what, I have nothing else to say right now,’ I repled. ‘I poured all of it into that book.’

Before we began recording I had asked a favour of the producer who would be spending the next three days in the adjacent booth listening to my every word, and would be the first person in the world to hear KOKORO spoken out loud. I had asked him to tell me, at the end, what lingered.

True to his word, when we had finished, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘The depth of wisdom, the reverence for Japanese culture, and the immense feeling of calm that came over me, that’s what has lingered.’

The cover of Kokoro shows Gassan (lit. ‘moon mountain’), known as the mountain of death and the past – the second of the three sacred mountains of Dewa in a remote part of northern Japan – beneath a full moon. I lived and worked in the shadow of Gassan half a lifetime ago, and returned following the death of my mother last year. It is the perfect image for Kokoro in so many ways, and I am so grateful to my publisher for this beautiful design (which has navy blur foil to catch the light which I hope shines out of the book).


In KOKORO you will find sorrow, but also much joy. There is a reckoning, but also a renewal. There is darkness, but with it, much light. I hope you absolutely love it.

Having done the audiobooks for each of my written books, I know that it is both as nourishing and as exhausting as three days spent in deep conversation. You come up for air at the end and everything is slightly blurry. It takes a while to get used to the world again, and knowing this, I decided to take the weekend off by the sea in Brighton, to sleep in, poke around vintage shops, drink coffee and meet up with old friends.

Well that was my plan, except on Saturday I started walking after breakfast and didn’t stop for eight hours. In a city which probably has more coffee shops than the entire county I live in, and one I know well from living there for several years, I could not decide where to stop and sit, so I just kept on walking. No lunch. No tea break. Just pavement pounding all day long, unable to make a decision. It was the strangest day.

As I walked along the seafront, listening to the familiar call of seagulls and watching waves batter the old pier, I sensed something behind me. I turned to glimpse a faint memory of my eldest daughter on her first birthday, laughing in a tiny Santa suit as Mr K pushed her along. I walked past a park where an echo of my mum was reading her stories as they sprawled out together on a picnic blanket. I saw my reflection in a shop window, younger, pregnant, in a bright yellow coat, smiling but tired on the inside.

I walked past our old house, more house than we could afford, and I remembered the meltdown on a beautiful wooden floor, which arrived when juggling work and children and paying for all the things all became too much. I remembered how, in that moment, I dreamt of my old life, back when I travelled the world and felt free, and I know now that it was the beginning of my midlife unravelling, which coincided perfectly with my parenting journey, and my entry into the author fray.


Fast forward seven years and I only recently realized that I have written my way through midlife, starting with FREEDOM SEEKER at 39, then WABI SABI at 40, and three more books in the following three years until this one, KOKORO, where the rumbling beneath the surface of my days became too loud to ignore, and just as I turned to face it, my mother died and everything turned to dust.

This book is mostly about what happened next. It’s about what happens when we navigate a major life transition, whatever that may be, whatever life stage we may be in.

Writing it changed my life. Reading it might change yours.

(And if you pre-order KOKORO today, you can get FREE access to a beautiful new seasonal writing sanctuary, Spring Light. CLICK HERE for details).

This week Stylist magazine named KOKORO on its list of best new health and wellness books. I am honoured, but I also want you to know that this is not a book of life hacks and quick solutions. It’s a book to change the way you navigate the world, to truly wake you up to the brevity and preciousness of this thing called life, and help you shed all that does not serve so you feel better within your life each and every day.

KOKORO: Japanese wisdom for a life well lived will be published on April 4. This book is my heart. I hope you absolutely love it, and that it lingers long after the final page.

Beth Xx


If you pre-order KOKORO now you can join me for a beautiful week-long seasonal writing sanctuary, Spring Light, for free (worth £59). Find out how here.

PS Thank you to everyone who helped shape the back cover blurb for Kokoro a couple of months ago, and thank you also for the incredible response to my previous essay about notebooks + dreaming. That is the kind of support makes things happen! I will keep you posted…

New Book Club Discussion Guide available for readers of Calm Christmas (FREE + just in time for the holidays!)


Is your book club looking for a new non-fiction pick in the run up to the holidays? Look no further!

Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year offers rich grounds for discussion, prompting nostalgia and the sharing of personal memories, inviting lively discussions about the true meaning of Christmas, and offering a host of ideas for a calmer, more mindful holiday season. It is also packed with self-care tips to help you have a wonderful Christmas without sacrificing your wellbeing, all good things to discuss in a book club setting.

Beth Xx

PS Be sure to take a photo of you all with your books and share it with me on Instagram @bethkempton!

CLICK HERE to download the Calm Christmas Book Club Discussion Guide (FREE)

Now set a date to gather and chat, pour a cuppa and get reading!

The Way of the Fearless Writer is now out in the US/Canada! (includes an exclusive bonus Q&A)

The Way of the Fearless Writer is now out in the US and Canada and it might just change your writing life…

As it says on the back…

Join author and Japanologist Beth Kempton on a sacred journey to uncover the secrets of fearless writing which have lain buried in Eastern philosophy for two thousand years.

In a radical departure from standard advice and widely-held assumptions about the effort and suffering required for creative success, The Way of the Fearless Writer will show you there is another way to thrive – a path of trust, ease, freedom and joy.

Learn how to free your mind so your body can create, transform your relationship with fear, dissolve self-doubt, shift writer’s block, access your true voice and bravely share your words with the world.

This profound book reveals the deep connections between mind, body, spirit, breath and words. Offering a rare insight into the writing life and a host of fresh and original exercises, it will open your eyes to writing as a direct connection to life itself.

I hope you will read it and love it, and that it inspires many words to flow from deep within. You are a writer and the world needs your medicine.

Beth Xx

PS You can hear me reading a snippet of it here.

Lyrics for The River by Danni Nicholls & Beth Kempton

By popular demand, here are the lyrics for our brand new song THE RIVER, out now! (Spotify / iTunes / Youtube). All credits below. Hope you love it and add it to your Instagram reels! (To find out more about how this came about read this post)

The River by Danni Nicholls and Beth Kempton, sung by Danni Nicholls (Spotify / iTunes / Youtube)

Just when I think I’m doing okay
It starts raining
Just when I think I’m finally on my way
The way starts changing.
I’m on a quest to find
The reason and rhyme
Life’s a mystery
How d’ya do it right?

There’s a river running through you
And it’ll flow ‘til the end of time
You’ve gotta trust in
The way it’s going
Let the river lead you home.

I spend my time worrying that
Time’s running out
My greatest fear is having regrets
So I’m frozen in doubt
I’m on a quest to find
A way out of my mind.
Life’s a mystery
How d’ya do it right?

There’s a river running through you
And it’ll flow ‘til the end of time
You’ve gotta trust in
The way it’s going
Let the river lead you home.

Every moment’s a chance to change your world

Every moment’s a chance to change…
Change your world

There’s a river running through you
And it’ll flow ‘til the end of time
You’ve gotta trust in
The way it’s going
Let the river lead you home.

You’ve gotta trust in…
Let the river lead you home.

(Spotify / iTunes / Youtube)

I did the thing I thought I couldn’t do, and here’s how it turned out… ❤️ (Hint: It involves songwriting!)

I can’t quite believe this day is here. I did the thing I thought I couldn’t do, and ‘The River’ – the song that I co-wrote with awardwinning singer-songwriter Danni Nicholls – is out in the world today! (Listen now on iTunes / Spotify / Youtube etc). Read on if you want to find out what this extraordinary experience felt like.

‘So what do you want to write a song about?’ Danni’s face beamed out of my laptop. ‘I’m not sure really. Life. Time. The detail and the vastness. The not knowing. The wanting to know. The not needing to know.’ Danni Nicholls is a professional singer–songwriter who generously agreed to co-write a song with me, as a fearless writing test. When I began to think about this book, I pondered what would be the most challenging writing experience I could imagine, and that was it. I love music, but I am not musical, so songwriting seemed out of reach, and co- writing sounded even harder, because it would involve spilling unpolished liquid words onto the ground in front of another human being.

‘And how do you feel about doing this?’ Danni asked.

‘I’m terrified,’ I answered, before I had the time to check in with myself and see how I was really feeling. When I did that I realised that actually, I wasn’t terrified at all. I was unsure of how it would work out, so I was a little nervous. I felt vulnerable knowing that I would have no room to edit the words that came out of my mouth before Danni caught them and wove them in with her own. But the overriding feeling was actually one of excitement.

During those three hours of co- writing The River with Danni, I had a strange sense that the song was materialising in the space between us, as if our separateness had dissolved at the edges to make room for it. We often talk of writing as a solitary pursuit, but actually, whether our co- creator is a singer–songwriter with Americana vibes or the creative energy of the universe itself, we are never alone in our work.

This reminds me of a commentary on the collaborative Japanese poetry genre, renga, in which alternating verses are linked by successive poets. Writing about this poetry form, Kyoto University professor Tadashi Ogawa said:

The essential basics of renga lie in both self-abandonment and the participation in za, which is ‘the opening place’ belonging neither to one’s self nor to that of the others. In short, what matters most is to abandon the ‘funk hole’ or ‘dugout’ of the self and enter into the ocean of a shared life with others.3

This was exactly what we had to do in order to co- write the song, and what we have to do as individual writers in order to co- create with the energy of the universe.

The River is OUT TODAY! You can listen on iTunes / Spotify / YouTube etc. If you like it, please share it with your friends!

And if you want to write the things you thought you could not write, I really encourage you to get a copy of my brand new book The Way of the Fearless Writer which is OUT ON THURSDAY! Remember, if you pre-order your copy, you can get FREE access to my brand new writing class Autumn Light which starts on October 17. Just order from any retailer, then fill in this short form. (If you have already done this, thank you! I will be in touch on publication day with details of how to access the class.

Be fearless! The world needs your medicine, my friend.

Beth Xx

PS This was sent out as my personal newsletter. If you’d like to get inspiration into your inbox from time to time, just hop on the list!

How I juggle all the things (hint: I don’t do all the things)

And just like that autumn arrived. Rain, wind, pumpkin spice lattes, poetry in the afternoon… What a gorgeous cosy time of year this is, all the better when you have leftover apple crumble to eat… I hope this finds you well and easing yourself back into your routine if you had a long break over the summer, or no break at all but children off school. Over here there has been so much on and I am making some big decisions about what to drop or postpone so I can get some proper rest. Summer was lovely, but not exactly relaxing this year! Which leads me to the thing I wanted to talk about today. The fact that just because we could, it doesn’t mean we should…
Of all the things I get asked, one of the most common questions is about how I manage to juggle family, writing, business and ‘all the things’. Here are a couple of thoughts:​​​​​​​​
(1) I don’t do all the things. I prioritise, and check in, and reprioritise, over and over again, making sure I keep choosing the things that really matter to me.​​​​​​​​ And sometimes I get knackered, and realise I had stopped prioritising the right things, or not allocated them enough time, and I move things around again.
(2) I have become really good at saying yes… and really good at saying no. See (1) above.​​​​​​​​
(3) I go with the ebb and flow of my energy, particularly in line with the seasons of the year. In my case I am very inward focused in winter which is when I tend to write my books. Spring is about new ideas, summer is outward facing and autumn is a time for releasing new things and preparing for hibernation as winter returns.​​​​​​​​
(4) I ask for help. We have almost no childcare where we live, but Mr K and I work as a team to make space for the things we each want to do and the things we want to do together.​​​​​​​​
(5) I don’t buy into the myth that creativity only happens in chaos. Creativity IS chaos, but in my experience it flourishes within the constraints of a container – an organised working space, a structured schedule (with lots of space in it), a calm and clear mind. ​​​​​​​​
Some food for thought! ​​​​​​​​may your September be organised and calm, so your chaotic creativity can flourish!
Beth Xx​​​​​​​​

PS On Monday we begin the 2022 edition of Make It Happen, a brilliant online course I co-teach with Rachael Taylor and Make It In Design. It guides you through a structured 12-week methodology for bringing any project to life. Last year I created an entire new e-course during the class.
This year I am toying with focusing on the creation of another new e-course or a stationery pitch.
I’ll be doing this alongside the class and you’ll get to witness the behind-the-scenes while working on your own project, which you will have launched before the end of class!

The song line by Jewel that stopped me in my tracks, and had me singing in a field

No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.

– from Life Uncommon by Jewel

Wow. Read that again my friend.

Hello there,

I hope you are enjoying the full flush of summer. Over here I have been dreaming up things to make with the interesting combination of delicious fruit and vegetables I was gifted from my dad’s allotment over the weekend – any ideas for beetroot and blackberries?

I have also been pondering a song line that I first heard several years ago, but which returned to me with a vengeance this year and has been hitching a ride in my head for a few months now. It is from the song Life Uncommon on Jewel’s album Spirit, and it goes like this:

No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from…

I love this song so much. (Listen to it here). The other day I sang it as loud as I could in an empty field and that felt GOOD, and it made me really think about what that particular line means. It made me reflect on the things which I continue to lend strength to even though I want to be free from them, ask myself why I do that, and make the decision not to keep on doing it. It has been a complete revelation. Music is so powerful, don’t you think?

So here’s a question to ponder as you go about days this week:

What are you lending your strength to that you actually want to be free from? And what might happen if you stopped doing that, and lent your strength to other things? What might those things be?

You never know, you might just have a revelation too.

Have a lovely week!

PS My book giveaways are back on Instagram. Scroll down or go to @bethkempton to find out more!

PPS I am so thrilled that so many of you are going to be joining me for the Summer Writing Sanctuary. I can tell from the messages I have received already that the class is going to have an amazing community of writers of all levels from around the world, and it is going to be such a gorgeous way to quench our creative thirst this summer. If you haven’t registered yet you can sign up for FREE here. It runs online for two weeks from August 15-28. If you are going to be away during that time don’t worry, you can catch up afterwards, but you need to register now because it won’t be available once the course is over. Hope to see you in class!

How to cope with the guilt that comes with doing what you love

A few days ago I got a Direct Message on Instagram from someone asking me an interesting question which is relevant to so many of us, so I thought I’d share my response here in case it is of interest to you, too. The DM said, “I feel like I have wondered into another chapter of my life that I didn’t know was waiting for me. I am trying to make space for myself but all of the space I create by necessity, takes me away from the family I decided to have, the job I wanted etc, so it gives me a huge amount of guilt. A large part of what you do also has to be on your own or in quiet places or with contemplative people. Do you struggle with time being split between your family and partner and the things you perhaps need and enjoy or allow you space? And if so how do you balance that?”

This question is essentially, “Don’t you feel guilty about doing what you love, and if you do, how do you cope with it?” I have a lot of thoughts about this – here are a few of them:

(1) A lot of my quiet time is not separate from my job, it’s necessary for my job – both in terms of my writing and the businesses I run. For me ‘doing what you love’ is a lot about how you spend each day, both in work and outside of work, and the work I choose requires quiet time which I love, hence my choice to do it. In theory I should no more feel guilty for it than anyone should feel guilty for going to work in a more conventional job. No-one ever asks a plumber if they feel guilty going to work, but our societal conditioning somehow makes us think that if we love it, and it’s creative, it can’t be real work which is sad and ridiculous, but also the state of things. Having said that, because it often doesn’t feel like ‘work’ in the way we are conditioned to think about work, the truth is I do feel guilty sometimes, so this is a fantastic question.

(2) I have worked on this parental guilt a lot, and talk about it in my new book The Way of the Fearless Writer because it can be a huge obstacle for getting to the page, and doing anything creative. Here’s the thing: I have come to understand that I am a better everything (mum, wife, friend etc) for having written or spent time with the ideas calling to me. By better I mean more present, patient, and awake to my life. My family knows this and we talk about it. Me doing my thing is good for all of us in many ways, and it might be the same for you. Recognising this can be a game changer in terms of getting the support you need to make time and space, and not feel bad about it.

(3) I make sacrifices. I often choose to spend time with my ideas instead of with friends in real life. Not always, but often. The truth is that these past few years I have put more effort into writing new books than making new friendships. I rarely meet up with people for coffee in the middle of the day because I’d rather be on a long walk in the hills or by the sea figuring out the idea for my next book. This doesn’t mean I think less of friends, I just don’t hang out with them all the time. I am sure this means I miss out on things, but a book (like art, or a new business) is the result of hundreds of tiny decisions to work on it, rather than something else. That’s a personal choice. It has not always been this way, and it might not always be this way, but it’s how I feel at this point in my life, so I’m going with it.

(4) I get up really early most days. Mr K gets up early too. We do our own thing for a couple of hours – me writing, yoga, walking etc and him pilates or running – and our children don’t even notice because they are sleeping. It’s bliss.

(5) Outside of ‘work’ I make room for creative time with a few choices – I don’t iron clothes (sorry Mum). I almost never watch TV (except for Grey’s Anatomy, currently still on season 13, no spoilers please). I batch cook food in winter and eat a lot of salad in summer. I don’t spend much time consuming social media (even when I am active on my own accounts). These simple things free up a lot of time.

(6) I encourage my husband to do stuff he loves too, away from me and the girls. He loves to go on long runs, sometimes to the pub, sometimes paddleboarding etc. He teaches pilates and doesn’t feel guilty about the time spent doing that, which reminds me not to feel guilty about the time I spend doing things I love.

(7) I think I am sending our girls an important message doing what I love, and turning formless ideas into food on the table, not to mention teaching them that quiet time and space matters for our well-being.

(8) There is a season for everything. I often write my books in winter which requires big chunks of time away from others. At other times I am much more available to everyone and it helps us all to know that.

(9) Sometimes it helps to work backwards. What’s your ideal day and how can you reconfigure your life to make that support your work and family as well as your own health and creativity? It’s just possible that in the end everyone will be grateful that you did.

(10) Life is short. You might as well do what you love, not just in the big scheme of things but inside every day. Just sayin’

If you have questions like this about doing what you love I’m always open to them. I love pondering them and might share in a future post so feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram @bethkempton.

Beth Xx

PS This post was originally sent as a newsletter to my community. If you’d like to get love letters and inspiration like this direct into your inbox just hop on the list for free here.

PPS It has been a big week for my Book Proposal Masterclass graduates over here – one graduate is deciding between multiple agents wanting to represent her, Emma S just landed an agent for a book idea I adore, and Ann Garcia’s How to Pay for College was published. We have just opened registration for the next class (February 2023) with an early bird discount of 30% off and an instalment plan, because I know some of you wanted to spread payments over several months. If you want to join me to get your non-fiction book proposal done in February, you can book your spot here.


Love writing? Spare 10 minutes to complete my research questionnaire and you might win a prize worth £500

I need your help! If you love writing, or love the idea of writing, I would be so grateful if you could you please spare 10 minutes for research for my next book. As a token of my gratitude, I am offering a giveaway prize worth over £500, for one person who completes this short research questionnaire.

The book is called ‘The Way of the Fearless Writer: Ancient Eastern wisdom for a flourishing writing life and it will offer a unique approach to writing fearlessly, rooted in ideas from centuries-old Japanese and Chinese philosophy.

I am interested in collecting a broad range of views from people with all kinds of writing experience (or none at all, but a yearning to write), to make sure the book is of benefit to as many people as possible. I would be so grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete this short questionnaire about writing. Anyone who completes it by midnight UK time on Wednesday 26 January 2022 will be entered into a draw to win the prize.

Thank you for your time!

Beth Xx

Prize (worth over £500)
– Access to the Do What You Love course of your choice (this could be the Book Proposal Masterclass or any other writing or personal development course) to be taken in 2022.
– A beautiful journal and an inspiring book of poetry
– A personalised signed copy of The Way of the Fearless Writer when it is published

Small print

  • This giveaway is open to anyone over the age of 18 based anywhere in the world.
  • To enter you must complete the questionnaire and give your contact details in response to question 1 of the questionnaire by midnight UK time on Wednesday 26 January, 2022.. Your email address will not be used for anything other than to contact you about the giveaway and the book, and will not be passed on to any third parties.
  • The winner will be picked at random and emailed directly. The choice of winner is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • There is no cash alternative.

What I learned taking one of the longest train journeys in the world… (Hint: writing can pay for your adventures)

Earlier this summer I spent some time at my parents’ house. They have a large shed in the garden which my dad has turned into a creative den. The walls are covered with old photos of us as children, and while I was perusing them this time I noticed this on the wall. It’s a framed copy of an article I wrote for The Daily Echo back in 1997, my second ever piece of professional writing. (Bless my parents for still having this, encased in a clip frame no less!)

My first was a commission from Wanderlust Magazine, to write about Kyoto where I was living as student at the time. I took the money from that article, and cashed in my return airline ticket, and traded the lot for a one-way train ticket home, from Beijing through Mongolia and Siberia, all the way to Moscow, and from there onwards home to England with an Interrail pass. I think I aged about five years on that trip, after being attacked by bandits, having the train stormed by Russian police, and seeing someone have their foot amputated by the moving train…

When I got back to England I wrote the piece that still hangs on the wall in my parents’ shed. I remember the very last leg on a stopping train to my local train station, so excited to see my family after my year abroad. Looking at the stinky dirty rucksack on my lap, the old lady in the seat opposite asked, “Where have you come from with a bag that size?” “Umm, Beijing.” “Oh really?” she replied. “I thought this train came from Portsmouth…”

As I looked at the fading brown crispy newspaper pages from more than twenty years ago, I saw how it was that trip which made me realise what words can do. Never believe anyone who tells you that you can’t make a living from writing. You just need to be creative, flexible and willing to put the work in.

Have a lovely week,


PS If you want to write a book, don’t miss my Book Proposal Masterclass, which starts on Monday! Last session this year – let’s get that proposal done and done! Use the coupon code NOWISTHETIME to get 15% off when you register HERE. Last few places available! Not sure if it’s right for you? See below for course testimonials from previous students!