A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Latest book makes navigating the ups and downs of the creative process well worth it

Throughout my career as a writer, I’ve learned that every project has a certain ebb and flow — an “I love what I do/I need a new job” ebb and flow. It’s a cycle that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. If you’ve ever been involved with a creative project of any sort, I’m betting you know what I’m talking about.

While the cycle itself may be unavoidable, being aware of the process makes navigation tolerable. To that end, I’d like to share what I’ve learned, both as a reminder to myself, and a heads up to you, Let’s break it down, shall we?

Phase one is where the magic first shows itself. This is the land of great ideas, where energy is high. Sunbeams bounce around like super balls and the buds on the flowers turn into chocolate bon-bons. All is right with the world.

If only that same energy was consistent. But it isn’t. Because that would be too easy.

A few weeks in, phase two hits. This is the what-was-I-thinking phase — the this-is-the-dumbest-idea-I’ve-ever-had phase.

In other words, this is the quitting stage.

When I tried my hand at knitting, this was the stage at which I carted off those brand new knitting needles and skeins of yarn to the thrift store. When I turned that one lone candlestick from wood, this was the point at which I tossed out any preconceived notions of becoming a woodturner.

Yes indeed, it takes dogged determination mixed with a dose or two of insanity to power through this phase. Many a career has been cemented or severed at this junction. Is it any wonder? Make it through this phase, though, and you’re golden.

Thankfully for the project creator and those around him or her, the mood of the next phase lightens considerably. Hope begins to peek through the desperation. Maybe it’s an unexpected interview or over-the-top experience that jump-starts the energy once again. The catalyst doesn’t matter. What matters is faith in mankind is rekindled. And for the first time since the idea originally presented itself —often weeks, months after you first began — you believe again. Maybe, just maybe, you say to yourself, I can pull this off after all.

Until the fourth phase hits. I dare say this one is the trickiest of them all. Because this is the point at which self-doubt rears its ugly pointed head.

“I don’t think you can do this,” it says. “You don’t have what it takes.”

Here’s the kicker, though. Whether the voice is right or wrong is of no consequence. Because you’ve come too far to back out now. It’s too late to turn around and you can’t jump ship. The only way to it is through it.

This is a Scarlet O’Hara moment if ever there was one. That moment when you shake your fist in the air and begin a “God as my witness” soliloquy (cue the dramatic music).

Luckily, the power-through-or-die-trying speech catapults you to completion.

As you look around at the final product, you realize it’s pretty darn special. You wonder why you ever doubted yourself. And you look to the future with fresh and confident eyes.

All of this can only mean one thing, of course. My latest book, Talk Bourbon to Me 2: The Spirit of Hospitality is now available, and it’s pretty darn special.

As the creative cycle played out, I had the pleasure of spending time with some fantastic people — people like Ken Lewis, owner of New Riff Distilling in Newport; Freddie Johnson, VIP Visitor Lead at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort; and yeast expert Dr. Pat Heist from Ferm Solutions and Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, to name a few.

You’ll read their stories and plenty others in Talk Bourbon 2. We’ll visit a couple of cooperages and spend a day Moonshine University. I’ll bring you some noteworthy facts about Kentucky’s favorite spirit — trivia you can quiz your friends on at your office Christmas party — and I’ll throw in some fabulous recipes to boot.

Whether you’re a bourbon fan, history buff, or lover of all things Kentucky, I think you’ll love this book. It’s available on Amazon at this link If you’d like a signed copy for yourself or someone else, drop me a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com. I’d be happy to get it out to you, pronto.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a few ideas for Talk Bourbon 3, and I better get a move-on before phase two kicks in.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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