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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!

Metamorphosis, in front of my eyes.

A month ago the postman knocked at the door. “You’d better open this one soon,” he winked, handing a brown box to our six-year old birthday girl. “Are they dead, mummy?” she asked wide-eyed, carefully lifting the clear pot out of the box and staring at the five motionless hairy caterpillars inside, sprawled across some pale brown gunk. “Erm, I think they are sleeping,” I hoped, quietly wondering whether it was legal to send living things in the post.

A week later those caterpillars had eaten all the gunk at the bottom of the jar, quadrupled in size and crawled up to the underside of the lid, to dangle like a showoff doing one-handed tricks on monkey bars. Over the next couple of days they seemed to grow a cocoon, as if it was their own body thickening up, rather than spinning a web around themselves as I had always imagined. When those chrysalides hardened, we carefully lifted the lid off the pot, creatures still attached, and transferred it to the pop-up net habitat that had arrived with our unusual package. Over the next few days the chrysalides darkened and texturized into charcoal grey beads flecked with gold.

I became obsessed with them, watching for the slightest changes in their outer layer, imagining I could see the imprint of folded wings pushing against the hard casing. One sunny morning we went to the beach for a couple of hours, and piled back into the house all noisy and sandy before someone cried, “Look!” Three butterflies had emerged, and were clinging to the wall of their net home. Their shed skins remained attached to the lid at one end, the other end burst through in that moment of emergence.

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They began as caterpillars and emerged as butterflies. I knew it was likely to happen. Of course I did. I had learnt about it in primary school forty years ago. But still I’m not sure I believed it would actually work. It seemed unfathomable. How did the caterpillars know what to do? How was that brown gunk enough to create something so beautiful? Where were their wings hidden? Surely they didn’t just spin them like fairy fabric in a matter of days? And how on earth did three of them emerge within an hour or so of each other, after all that time? (The other two had been disturbed when we moved them to their habitat and had fidgeted for a while. That must have taken some of their energy reserves, and they were the last to emerge a couple of days later)

Perhaps what amazed me the most was the realization that the caterpillar doesn’t actually turn into the butterfly, changing its whole body and so on. Rather it simply grows wings. I don’t think I knew that before, but having studied them so closely before they became chrysalides, I recognized their caterpillar faces as butterflies. Close up they were the essentially the same. From a distance they were completely new. When we released them, they instinctively knew what to do.

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Their period of retreat had been an intense period of growth, away from the world, still and silent yet intensely fertile as they spun potential from their own bodies. What emerged was not another creature, but the same one, changed. The same face, but with the courage and confidence that wings can bring – wings they didn’t have to think to grow, but rather wings that grew on them, when they surrendered to the process, and trusted. Metamorphosis, just like that.

I am sending this to you from a short writing retreat where I too am surrendering to the process. It isn’t easy, or comfortable, but my winged friends reminded me that I don’t have to work so hard at it. Instead I just need to get quiet and wait. Then I’ll know what to write, or I perhaps will be written.

Have a good week friends,
Beth Xx

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PS Did you know I have a brand new course starting on Monday? It’s called Excavate Your Life: writing towards clarity and direction. This extraordinarily rich five week life-exploration/personal development/writing course is a unique opportunity to discover what you really want from life. And as a special treat to celebrate its launch you can get 30% off with the code DIGDEEP if you register here by Monday.

(Butterfly images: Holly Bobbins Photography. Lotus image: Unsplash/Zoltan Tasi)

Excavate Your Life (brand new personal development + writing course!)

For months now I have been working on a brand new course which combines personal development and writing, as a way to navigate life. Excavate Your Life is a rich online course which offers a unique opportunity to explore what you really want from life, while honing your writing skills. Join me, bestselling self-help author Beth Kempton as I guide you on a wild and beautiful journey towards clarity and direction. Each weekday for five weeks you will get a juicy lesson (audio, video, journaling worksheet and writing challenge) to help you go deep and stretch your writing. By the end of the course, the alchemical nature of it all will ensure you have a stronger sense of what really matters to you, and a clearer idea of where to focus your time, energy and attention. Not to mention having much more confidence in your writing after all that practice…

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This is a very special hybrid writing and personal growth course which I have designed to help you find clarity and direction, both in your writing and in your life. I have spent more than a decade helping people to navigate change and reconfigure their lives to do what they love. I have also written a series of self-help books, all connected by a thread of making the most of this precious life.

It’s so easy in the rush of the modern world to go through the motions of each day without stopping to think what it’s all about, whether we are actually awake to our experience, and how we want to make the most of whatever is left, without knowing how long that will be. Personally I find journaling and writing incredibly powerful tools to help me tune in to the world, to my life, to other people, and to myself. I have brought all of this together in this course, with the aim that by the end of it you will be inspired, motivated and ready for whatever might be next.

To celebrate the launch of this brand new course you are invited to join with a 30% discount – just use the coupon code DIGDEEP when you register here by Monday August 23 (when class begins). Sign up now and start excavating your life. You never know what goodness you might find.

Beth Xx

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Who’s it for?

This is for you if any of the following are true:

  • You want to make a major change in life
  • You are wondering ‘What should I do with my life?’
  • You need help figuring out what you really want
  • You want to shake things up and get out of a rut
  • You want to mine your life for its most valuable lessons
  • You are looking for a sense of meaning and purpose OR
  • You want to write a memoir or a book that explores the human experience

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What’s included?

The course has been designed as a five-week intensive class, and includes:

  • Daily Spark audios to get your creative juices flowing
  • Daily video lessons, each guiding you to excavate your life from a different perspective
  • Daily journaling worksheets to guide you gently through the excavation process, seeking out clues and patterns to help you envision what kind of life you want to create
  • Daily writing challenges to push you out of your writing comfort zone and explore what you are really capable of
  • PLUS Along the way I include a host of insights into my experience helping thousands of people to navigate change, and writing five self-help books

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About your tutor

Beth Kempton has spent the last decade helping tens of thousands of people find creative ways to live well doing what they love, through powerful online courses and workshops as founder of Do What You Love. Beth writes self-help books which have been translated into 24 languages.

Her bestselling book ‘Wabi Sabi: Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect lifehas been recommended by TIME Magazine, British Vogue, The Telegraph, and Psychologies Magazine, described as ‘a truly transformational read’ by Sunday Times Style. She is also the author of Freedom Seeker: Live more. Worry less. Do what you love., Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year and most recently, We Are in This Together: Finding hope and opportunity in the depths of adversity’ (Piatkus) which she wrote in sixteen days in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Mother of two adorable girls, she lives a slow-ish life in Devon, UK.

Important note

Please be aware that this is not a replacement for clinical therapy. Please seek professional clinical advice if you need it. Please also note that this class does not include specific advice on writing technique or any feedback on individual writing samples. It is a self-paced course so there is no direct interaction with Beth. It is also designed as a very personal experience so there is no private community with this course.

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Do I have to be online at a certain time to join in?

The classroom will open on August 23, 2021, and content will be released from that date. You do not have to log on at a certain time – you can follow the course at whatever pace suits you. You will have classroom access until January 31 2023 and most of the content is downloadable anyway.

Can I join if I live outside of the UK?

Yes you can join from anywhere.

Any other questions?

Drop the team a line at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help.

Join me for The Writing Oasis – a brand new FREE 2-week summer writing class

Quench your creative thirst this summer with my brand new FREE two-week writing course. After more than a year of turmoil and stress, I was inspired to create The Writing Oasis as a light and airy space where we can gather and write together this summer. Step away from it all for just a few minutes a day to seek refuge, refreshment and community in this seasonal writing sanctuary, designed to calm the mind and nourish the soul. Join me for two weeks in August for daily writing lessons, prompts, inspiration and tips for a flourishing writing life.

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Sign up now for FREE here and get ready to bliss out with words from Aug 2–14! Please bring your friends too – all are welcome!

This LIVE online class will be like a long cool drink on a hot summer’s day, offering an outlet for all you have been carrying this past year, and a tonic for an overstretched, busy life. Whether you want to write for business or pleasure, whether you have a book dream or simply want to get journaling again, this course will be an inspiration. You can take it on holiday with you and do your writing at the beach, or allow it to bring some sunshine into your regular working life – whatever works for you!

Hope to see you in class, pens at the ready!

Beth Xx

PS If you liked The Winter Writing Sanctuary you will LOVE The Writing Oasis! Just click here to sign up for FREE now, and book your spot for August.

Images: @byhollybobbins; Unsplash/Ishan Seefromthesky

Here’s what to do if uncertainty is hanging heavy

Here in England we are in Lockdown 2.0. It’s very different from the first one. Schools are still open. We can get a takeaway coffee and stroll on the beach. We can easily find toilet roll at the supermarket and go for a socially-distanced walk with one friend, and there are even real rumours of a vaccine. But it’s much darker, colder and wetter this time, and while we have figured out ways of doing many things, we also have more knowledge about the impact these restrictions are having. One thing that has been a constant through this time is the uncertainty, and we cannot take that away right now. The truth is we never can, but we put up walls and tie things down and schedule things and pay for things and tell ourselves things to make us feel like we are in control.

Instead, if we can allow the uncertainty, and accept it to be a part of life, we can let go of the effort it takes to want it to be anything else.

Here are things you can try when uncertainty is playing heavily on your heart:

(1)  Make sure you are balanced in your imagination. For every dreadful scenario you dream up, make yourself dream up, in the same level of detail, an equally wonderful scenario. This puts both possibilities in your mind, and then shows you that neither is more of a fact than watching a movie.

(2) For every hope you have, consider a possible challenge, and how you would deal with that if it came. This can help build confidence in your capacity to cope, and resilience when those things come towards you. And then return to the hope, and think about how you will feel if that comes to pass.

(3) Every time you get a wave of anxiety about an uncertain future, take a moment to breathe, and make a note of something positive you can do to help yourself right now.

If you are struggling to decide what to do, simply ask, “What is the best action in this moment that will also support my future self?” It might be supporting your immune system with the things you choose to eat. It might be waiting for the fog to clear, and talking to a friend in the meantime. It might be resting. It might be flying into action with a passion you haven’t seen in years. There is no one right answer. But there is a best answer in this moment with the information you have and the words in your heart.


This is an extract from my book We Are in This Together: Finding hope and opportunity in the depths of adversity (available in ebook for just £2.99 or in audiobook read by me)

Comfort + joy in winter

Nourishing your mind at this time of year can look as simple as turning away from overstimulation—to-do lists, screens, loud music, bright lights, toxic conversations—and making your way into nature, open spaces, fresh air, peace and quiet. Try counting the shades of evergreens, inhaling the aroma of wild herbs, listening for signs of life. On cold, sunny days, look for berries, or different leaf shapes, or visiting birds. Seek out hardy plants emerging from cracks in the pavement. Make bark rubbings with a little person. Fill up a feeder for the birds. I find the ever-changing sky a powerful tonic for the soul. For you, it might be the nearness of water, or the bare bones of trees, stripped of their leaves. Seek whatever you need. Document your finds. Photograph them. Sketch them. Forage a few samples for your bedside table. Or nourish your mind with words—write about your day, take time out with an inspiring podcast or a good book, or settle in for a long conversation.

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With England heading back into national lockdown today, and tensions high for so many people, it seems like a good time to look for ways to find comfort and joy in winter. This week’s episode of The Calm Christmas Podcast is all about that, and it’s out now on iTunes, on Spotify or here on my website.

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I also invite you to join my Winter Writing Sanctuary, a two-week online class starting on November 23. Given all that is going on in the world right now I have decided to make this completely FREE. Book your place here and join me and hundreds of other writers from all around the world as we escape into a cosy world of words this winter. All levels welcome. Hope to see you there!

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Take good care
Beth Xx


Introducing The Calm Christmas Podcast! New episodes every Thursday through to January

Come and join me at my kitchen table deep in the English countryside for a cosy listen during the darkest time of the year. In this brand new series, The Calm Christmas Podcast, I share soothing wintery words from my favourite writers and poets, tips for a stress-free holiday season, and ideas for taking care of yourself at this time of year. There are tips for a natural, sustainable Christmas, and a glimpse of how winter is endured and celebrated around the world.

With new episodes every Thursday from now until January, it’s less of a countdown to Christmas and more of a travelling through winter together. So mark your diary and allow me to inspire you to let go of perfection and create a meaningful, nourishing celebration this year.

There are logs on the fire, tea in the pot and gingerbread straight out of the oven. Pull up a chair and relax✨❤️

The Calm Christmas podcast is a cosy listen during the darkest season of the year.

Whether you will be spending this season alone or with family, and whether you love Christmas or find it stressful (or both!), I hope it The Calm Christmas Podcast is a friend on your crisp morning walk, in your coffee break, while you are painting, or cooking, or curled up by the fire this winter! The first two episodes are available now via iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts and here on my website.

Let the season gently enter in✨

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Episode 1: Readying yourself for a calm Christmas (why now really is the time to start thinking about it) including:

  • A cosy introduction to The Calm Christmas Podcast
  • An important question for you to ponder (because asking it now could transform your experience of Christmas this year)
  • This week’s ‘Get ahead tips’
  • Details of some treats for you

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Episode 2: Making magic and memories including:

  • Embracing the autumn while preparing for winter (including some fun activities to try in all weathers)
  • Pondering how Christmas might be different this year, and how we can make the most of that
  • Memories of Christmases abroad
  • The one question you need to answer in order to create magic and memories this year
  • This week’s ‘Get ahead tips’

-> Listen now on iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts or at and don’t forget to subscribe for new episodes every Thursday ✨🎶

Nine reasons why thinking about Christmas in October is good for your health

I know, I know, it’s only October. So why am I talking about Christmas already? Well firstly because my book all about Christmas just came out in the US and Canada (hurrah), but mostly because of these nine reasons:

(1) It gives you time to set an intention for the season, before the craziness begins, so you don’t get sucked into everyone else’s version of what Christmas should be.

(2) It gives you time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t last year, and figure out what a meaningful Christmas really means to you. That means you also have enough time to have any tricky conversations about different arrangements which might make it better this year.

(3) It gives you time to think about who you have really appreciated this year, and get creative about how you might like to show your gratitude. And it gives you time to figure out what might be difficult for you this year, and get support.

(4) It gives you time to make a budget, so you don’t overspend, so you avoid the January credit card hangover and related stress, and so you get inspired by what you could do with all the money you plan to save as a result.

(5) It allows you to spread out the preparations throughout November and December, so you don’t get overwhelmed as the festivities draw closer.

(6) You will have more time to make or personalise things, and perhaps even enjoy some mindful wrapping, rather than rushing to wrap a huge pile of stuff at the last minute.

(7) It gives you time to get into a rhythm of self-care, whether that’s something practical like committing to a regular yoga class, or a get-running-programme, or looking up nourishing recipes to see you through the winter, or something less tangible but just as important, like carving out some time each week for something that you love, or journaling daily as the nights draw in.

(8) It gives you time to relax and soak up the kind of soothing words that will carry you through the winter, reminding you what can be most precious at this time of year.

 (9) It allows you to reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021 before the Christmas rush begins, so you can do it with a clear head and a hopeful heart.

Need some inspiration? I wrote my book Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year just for you, and now is the perfect time to read it (with a very special free gift), or from any good bookstore.

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On ignoring the doubters and loving them anyway

When I talk about doing what you love, some people get really inspired, and some people do a funny kind of snigger and say, “Yeah but I love watching tv and no-one’s going to pay me to do that.” Well actually there are plenty of jobs that will pay you to do that – from specializing in TV law to being an actor on Gogglebox, from being a showbiz blogger to being a novelist doing research for a new book about TV dramas… The point is, you can get paid to do ANYTHING in this world, but sometimes you just need a little more creativity and ingenuity to figure out how.

The trickiest part is that we are often surrounded by doubters, people who love us, but want to protect us from the risk of things not working out and so encourage us to stay safe and small in something THEY understand. But it’s a big wide world out there, full of opportunity (even in a pandemic-hit world), and it’s creative thinkers who will find their way out of this by forging new paths. The doubters can’t see those paths, and they are afraid for us about what will happen if we seek them out. We might get lost in the woods for a while, or follow the path so far away they get left behind, or in walking that path we might shine a light on their own stuckness. If you recognize that, you can be compassionate towards the doubters in your life, without taking their advice. You can love them without listening to them.

Remember, this is YOUR life. You get to choose.

On ignoring the doubters and loving them anyway IMG 6156Years ago I remember having that particular conversation about doing what you love and someone said to me, “Well that’s a nice idea, but I love Christmas and no-one’s going to pay me to enjoy that.” I beg to differ, especially today as my book Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year is published in the US and Canada.  In a non-pandemic world I’d probably be planning a trip to New York, where my US publisher Scribner is based in the Rockerfeller Center, home of that iconic Christmas tree, marvelling at how I get to do that and call it my job. Instead I am here in England on a stormy day, celebrating with a mince pie and some mulled wine, marvelling at how I get to enjoy that and call it my job.

So, my friend, if the doubters’ voices are ever too loud, you can always hop over and chat with me on Instagram @bethkempton, and I’ll remind you of all the reasons why doing what you love CAN work, and why in doing it you might just inspire those doubters out of their stuckness too.

Beth Xx

PS Here are a few readers’ thoughts about Calm Christmas… I hope you will read it too. Available here!

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A question for you to ponder on a long autumnal walk…

Hello friend

How have you been? I hope you have weathered the COVID storm and are doing OK in your corner of the world. It has been a while since I blogged regularly because, you know, life! But as we come into the last quarter of this extraordinary year, I wanted to reach out and check in.

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I know of many people who can’t wait to see the back of 2020, but personally I am not rushing toward December. Autumn is a gorgeous time out in nature, for wrapping up warm and taking long walks, for catching up with old friends and harvesting the lessons from the year.

So for the remainder of 2020 I am going to write a new love note a couple of times a month, offering a question to ponder. I hope that’s OK with you. Sometimes it will be a reflection question, other times it will be one to inspire you to look up and ahead. Sometimes it will be a deep question, other times, simply something to get you looking a little differently at the world.

To begin, today’s question is this – an obvious but essential question to begin with:

What is the best thing that has happened for you this year because of all the disruption and chaos caused by COVID?

Perhaps you’d like to take this question for a walk, or chat about it to a friend or partner, or pop over to Instagram @bethkempton and tell me. I’d love to know.

Beth Xx

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PS If you are like me and love to use this time for reflection and planning ahead, but have become disillusioned by planning (because, well what’s the point when everything gets cancelled?) then you might like my brand new Perfectly Imperfect 2021 Digital Planner, which comes with an audio guide read by me, to help you distill the lessons from this crazy year and dream about what 2021 might bring. This is not your usual achievement-led goal-setting exercise. It’s more soulful than that, and encourages you to dream and scheme in the full knowledge that things might change, because they often do.

This planner has just been released and is available to buy here for just £7 (around $9) or you can get it for FREE with any order of my book Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year, which comes out in the US and Canada next week. To get it for free, simply order Calm Christmas in any format (gorgeous hardback, ebook or audiobook read by me) from any retailer and then put your receipt details into the short form here.

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If you bought the book last year, why not get a copy for a friend, then use that receipt to get access to the planner for free? Just a thought!