Interview With Author Beth Kurland

Hi, I’m Beth Kurland and I’m a clinical psychologist, public speaker, and author. I have been in practice since 1994, working with people across the lifespan, providing evidence-based treatment for a range of issues and life challenges. I am passionate about teaching mindfulness and mind-body strategies for well-being, as these have been transformative in my own life and in the lives of my patients.

I am the author of three books. My first book, The Transformative Power of Ten Minutes: An Eight Week Guide to Reducing Stress and Cultivating Well-Being was awarded Finalist by Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Health and Wellness category. This book offers readers short daily practices that take ten minutes or less, to help reduce stress, experience greater ease, and cultivate well-being in their lives. This is a very hands-on book that offers a whole program for learning to transform your relationship to stress. I consider it a kind of “greatest hits album” because it combines the best of what I’ve learned from the psychology field and from my clinical experience, and it is presented in a concise and easy to follow manner. Besides daily practices, there are 64 worksheets that go along with the book (available for download) and 26 audio meditations (also available for download).

My second book is Gifts of the Rain Puddle: Poems, Meditations and Reflections for the Mindful Soul. This book was Winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Gift/Novelty book category. It is a short gift book filled with poems, meditations and questions for reflection, meant to inspire people to embrace the precious moments of their lives, ask some of the bigger questions to help people find meaning, and offer words to inspire mindful living.

My newest book, Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life, was awarded the Spirited Woman Top 12 Book Pick for 2019. This book explores five common “mental habits” that we can get stuck in, that can take us away from the well-being that is possible in our lives. If offers five “antidotes” or tools to work with these mental habits in a powerful way. When we do this, what we discover is that each mental habit actually becomes an opportunity to grow lasting inner resources for well-being, compassion, gratitude, peace and joy in our lives.

What are the stories behind your books?

My first and third book were inspired by stories from the lives of my patients over the past 20 years, as well as from my own life. I wanted to choose examples that people could relate to, where they might see themselves and recognize that we all share many of the same common struggles on this journey to well-being. My newest book especially shares personal narratives and vignettes from my own life, interwoven with those of others and what I have learned in my field and from my clinical experience. The poems in my poetry book were inspired by mindful moments in my day, when I just got quiet and listened to what emotions were arising, and what deeply wanted to be expressed.

When I give book talks I like to share some of my own vulnerabilities, to emphasize that we are all human. Even though I wrote a book on stress, I consider myself a high stress, type A person by nature and I’ve had to work hard much of my life to find ways to help me manage this. Much of what I share in my books have been things that have been helpful in my own life, but they are also grounded in science and psychology. A graduate professor once said to me that we teach people what we most need to learn, and I think this is definitely true for me! Teaching and writing about all of this is a great reminder for me to continue to use my tools. Life is always a work in progress, not an end point to get to.

What inspires your creativity and how do you deal with creative blocks?

Connecting with this deep spark within me that represents what I am most passionate about, what moves me, what has affected me most deeply, what I care most about, and what makes me feel most alive inspires my creativity. I write, not because I have to, but because I have a story to tell, an important message to share, one that I have lived first hand both personally and in my professional life, and I want others to benefit from this. When I write from this place it doesn’t feel like work at all, and my writing just flows. I feel like in many ways my books wrote themselves. When I am in touch with that inner spark, the words just come to me. Even though I was integrating a lot of research and knowledge from the psychology field as well, these books felt deeply personal and exciting to write.

I know each person has their own experience with writing and there is no right or wrong way. I don’t often have creative blocks (perhaps because I typically write about things that inspire me and that I am deeply passionate about) but when I do it is usually because I am trying too hard, trying to force something, or trying to “figure something out” and am too much in my head. I had an interesting experience recently at a workshop where I was trying too hard with my writing. I was trying to force it, and I was feeling stuck. Also, I was letting that inner critic derail me a bit with feelings of self-doubt, as I was surrounded by so many amazing writers. I went to bed feeling a bit discouraged but then awoke at 3 am and felt compelled to get out of bed and go to my computer. I just started writing and the ideas poured out. They continued to pour out for the next two days until I had completed the piece. When I stopped trying so hard and gave myself a little space, things just came together intuitively and effortlessly.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I am laughing to myself at this question, mostly the part about choosing titles. I may not be the best person to ask regarding choosing titles. For my most recent book – Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life – it was honestly easier for me to write the book than to come up with the title. I must have had at least 300 titles I tried out. It took months to finally settle on the one I did (which I am very pleased with), but the process was agonizing. In part perhaps this was because I felt some pressure to come up with it since there was a deadline. I dragged my family into this, as well as my friends, and even my kids’ friends — and I think after awhile people got sick of me running titles past them. I think the next book I write I will come up with the title first, and then write the book . In fact, I have a few titles in mind.

Regarding the book covers, I was fortunate to know some talented people (my stepmom for two of my books, and a colleague of hers for my most recent book), so that made it really easy.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

I think creativity thrives in a relaxed, safe, and accepting space. Sometimes I’ve gotten great ideas during or after meditating, or in the swimming pool while swimming laps (which is very meditative for me). I think to write without censoring or editing can be very helpful — to just write and let loose whatever wants to come out on the page (and worry about the editing later). Don’t worry about it being “good”; just connect with a deep part of you that sparks something that you are passionate about, and write from that place. I am convinced that many people have great ideas and might write great books but get tripped up because they overthink their ideas or worry about them not being good enough.

I know for me many years ago I wrote a draft of a children’s story. I showed it to someone and got a luke warm response. I put that story away and didn’t write again for many years! I have since learned to work with that inner voice of self-doubt (or the criticism from others) and take it more lightly and to persevere anyway.

I was recently introduced to something called the Gateless Writing Method. This is a wonderful way to spark creativity! One thing I loved about this in the group setting I was in was the rule of only offering people positive feedback and sharing with them what you liked or what worked for you about what they wrote. This promotes that safe environment where creativity can truly thrive.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best thing I encountered when writing Dancing on the Tightrope was the joy of writing this book. I wrote it mostly over the summer and I would go sit outside in my favorite spot in our backyard on the days I was not seeing patients and just write for hours. Having a whole uninterrupted day to write was absolute heaven. I felt this kind of excitement like a kid in a candy shop. I couldn’t wait to write. The beautiful summer weather was a real bonus.

One of the most surprising things for me was how many times I edited it after I thought it was complete. Thankfully my publisher was finishing up another project so that gave me a few months leeway. I kept sending her emails saying “final draft”, and then “final final draft” and so on. Thank goodness she was patient with me. I would read something new or have a new experience and say – wait, I have to add that to the book. The beginning of the introduction, where I describe sitting with my parents in a café trying to come up with titles, was added very last minute. So was the little vignette about the raccoons in our garage that I used for the opening of Chapter 1. I would probably still be editing to this day if I did not have a deadline. It was harder to let go of the manuscript than I thought.

The other surprising thing I encountered was the tremendous generosity of the people who agreed to review my book. There are many people whom I reached out to who I did not expect would be able to review my book due to their very busy lives, but everyone said yes. I was truly blown away by this.

There really was no worst thing that I can think of. If I had to pick something, I would say it was when my sister gave me a three day moratorium on speaking to her about book titles. I had been agonizing for months about the title and would call her daily to run new titles past her. I can’t say I blame her when she told me she just needed a break from hearing about titles.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

When I was six I spent a year living in Wichita Kansas. I have some distinct memories of that year. There were many evenings when I would wake up in the basement gathered there with my family because of tornado watches. Also, the schools used wooden paddles (which is hard to believe in this day and age!).

I love to dance! I studied ballet from a young age through high school, and then took some modern dance classes in college and beyond. A number of years ago I tried to inquire about taking dance lessons at a local studio but was told I was too old. (I needed to be no older than my late 20’s…I was so disappointed). I studied ballroom dance for a short bit of time during graduate school and loved it. Get me on a dance floor and I go wild! This is one place where I feel I can truly let loose.

I also spent about 12 years competing in triathlons. The longest race I did was a half ironman. This involved a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, followed by a 13.1 mile run. It was as much a test of mental stamina as it was physical stamina. Interestingly, I found these events to be quite meditative. I was very present and in the moment each step of the way (which helped me tremendously, since thinking about what was ahead of me would have been daunting).


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