Name: Beth Hautala / Age: 36 / Location: Deerwood, MN / Current Title: Mom, Wife, Blogger, Author, Cook, Drinker of all the coffee / Educational Background: BA in Writing and Rhetoric
Let’s start from the beginning. How did your interest in writing come about?
I suppose my love for words came with my initial love of reading. I was a late reader and came into it struggling. But when the world of words finally opened to me, I remember feeling like everything expanded – everything had layers and layers of significance. Writing my own stories was a natural transition from reading stories others had written. With that, came this discovery of slowness (care). I was allowed to take saying things I wanted to say with the written word. Writing allows you to truly think about what you mean. In some cases it allows you to discover what you mean. Speaking never affords me that luxury. For me, writing is a safe haven. A quite place in the madness.
You wrote a YA novel: Waiting for Unicorns. What was that experience like?
Writing a book is like learning to swim and ride a bike at the same time. Challenging, impossible without good people holding you up in the waves, and tremendously fulfilling. I learned so much about writing and the publishing industry while actually working in the field. It’s brilliant and complex and engaging, the way any good education is. The experience continues to provide an excellent outlet for my creative ramblings and it has served to remind me that while I am entirely devoted to my family, I also have the privilege and responsibility to be devoted to my craft.
Are you planning on writing another novel?
My second book (The Ostrich and Other Lost Things, out from Penguin/Randomhouse) will hit shelves February 20 of 2018, and yes, a third book is already in the works. I can’t imagine not telling stories!
You also have a blog. What do you enjoy about blogging?
I blog about food and life and things that nurture at eatwriterepeat.net I blog about writing at writingwordbyword.com Really, both blogs are just more facets of creative output for me. When I’m not under deadline for a book, I blog because I have to write about something. Food is fun to write about because it’s creative and nourishing and full of story. It engages and invites people in. It’s best shared, and it warms body, mind and soul. Plus, I really love to cook. And eat. My writing blog is a natural place to build a platform as an author.
How do you live your life “intentionally”?
I work very hard at using the skills I have and making the most of the time I’ve been given. Anything else, for me, feels like a waste of “this one wild and precious life,” as the poet Mary Oliver said. Writing is a perfect opportunity to combine and use all the myriad of things that interest me in an engaging way.
I have to be a student of the world to write about it. Living intentionally and in the moment as much as possible is a necessity if I ever want to do that well. Practically speaking, that means unplugging and engaging with the world. Noticing details in everything from expressions on the faces of strangers around me, to the particular bent of a branch in the wind.Intentionality is born out of this idea of moving around in the world with deliberate purpose—knowing and perusing the things that fill you with lovely momentum. So when I look around and focus on the things that urge me forward toward joy, living intentionally becomes less about striving and more about chasing the things I love.
Do you feel that work–life balance exists and how to you work towards this in your own life?
Ah yes. Balance. Life on a tightrope. Ha! I do believe it exists and I believe it’s very important. It’s easier to do when you love your work and you get to govern how much of it consumes the rest of your life…that’s part of the reason I chose to be a writer, even though doing so almost guaranteed some measure of poverty and failure (hopefully mixed in with some success). I have experienced a measure of those things, fortunately! But also discovered that I could never not write.
I chose to be a mother, and a wife, and a woman who Makes Home for the same reasons and with the same results—and I love it all dearly. The reality of choosing to peruse creative passions often means making sacrifices so the rest of your “must do” life, and the people you love and care for, do not suffer as a result. I’m a writer. So I write. But I do so between the hours of 4am and 7am, because I’m also Mom to four Littles.
Chase your dreams with all your might and don’t believe for a minute that you can’t love your family and your work/art/passions at the same time. But know it’s not glamorous. Or comfortable. Or easy. It takes determination and perseverance and creativity. Yet, I’m convinced that feeding dreams is as important as caring for a family. I love my people better—deeper, and wider, and with more sensitivity, when I remember that my identity exists with but beyond theirs.
Does creativity come easily for you, or is it something you have to work at?
I feel like I’m a fairly creative person, but I have to work very hard at making it useful. There are times when sitting down to write is pure drudgery. It’s work in the truest sense of the word. But there are these glorious moments when I forget I’m pounding words on a page and it feels more like watching a scene unfold from a movie. It’s exhilarating! I live for those moments. Being actively creative ultimately requires discipline and practice. “Start writing, no matter what,” said Louis L’Amour. “The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” I think that idea applies to any creative pursuit.
“When I look around and focus on the things that urge me forward toward joy, living intentionally becomes less about striving and more about chasing the things I love.”
What advice would you give to those who are struggling to find their passion?
Spend time in silence. We are so very good at filling up our empty spaces and our silences with noise and activity. We are literally gorged with it—it keeps emptiness and loneliness and grief at bay (emotions that are true and real for every person on the planet, no matter how happy they seem).
It’s safe and easy to stay busy and loud. But we have no idea what kind of people we are until we allow silence to take over for a bit. Until we are alone. Until we allow ourselves to look around and truly feel. To mourn the loss of things that matter — the things that need to slip away before we have room for new growth.
Struggling to find your passion? Ask yourself this: What is the one thing I can’t live without doing? What one thing makes me feel alive? What makes me forget to check my phone? What makes me feel as though I’ve swallowed stars and oceans? What one thing, however small or insignificant or impossible will I be delighted to sign my name to (in whatever proverbial or literal sense that might be). If you can’t answer any of those questions, then take time to turn off, unplug, breathe, cry, laugh, and wait. Your heart knows what it needs, and it may be painful or scary as hell. But it’s worth knowing.
Do you have any book recommendations?
The last best book I read: All the Light We Cannot See
Do you have any app recommendations?
Waterlogged—helps me drink more water (because alas, coffee alone won’t hydrate me).
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Flowers (I buy them for myself all the time and my husband buys them for me quite often as well). Coffee. Staying up too late.
Favorite way to unwind after a long day?
A glass of wine. A book. If the weather is nice, time to myself just sitting outside. SO CLICHÉ! I hate baths though. Like hate. All I can think about every time I bathe my kids (because I almost never take a bath myself) is, “Oh look. Another massive pot of human soup.” So gross.
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