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How to Write, Despite: What My Thai/Indian/Nepalese/Chinese/Canadian/British/Australian Students Taught Me About Writing in Thailand

Mosquito arsenal
My mosquito arsenal

I made it to Thailand to teach book writing—despite my fears of traveling as a woman alone in a foreign city where I do not even speak the language. Several times, I wondered if I should really go:

  • It’s rainy season; I might catch some exotic illness from a mosquito bite!
  • I might get lost and wander down the wrong–dangerous–road.
  • It could be terribly lonely to spend so much time on my own.
  • How will I ever overcome the jet lag to teach?
  • Can I even survive 22 or more hours of flying?

Don’t get me wrong. I felt excited, grateful, awed that I had the opportunity to visit the exotic land I had first seen—and dreamed of—on the posters of a Thai restaurant near Manhattan’s Bowery district in my pre-teen years.

But fear could have stopped me.

I’m glad it didn’t. Here are just a few snippets of the gifts that came when I transcended my fears:

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha
  • The opportunity to view—and be awed and inspired by—the grand, elaborate and exquisite Buddhist temples, along with the sublime Buddha sculptures, exotic architecture and beautiful paintings adorning the many buildings and courtyards of each temple.
  • The most delicious food I’ve eaten in my life: I especially loved the coconut soups with their curries, basil, lemongrass, mushrooms and slices of sweet, crunchy lotus root.

    Well fed writers
    Well fed writers
  • My own writing breakthroughs, as I rose each morning at 4 or 5 a.m. to fulfill my writing commitments I made in the workshop!
  • Shopper heaven—exquisitely woven Thai silks, exotic gifts for my family and friends, lovely postcards and notecards—all at bargain prices with my strong US dollars. I know, it’s a bit materialistic, but, as someone who loves a beautiful bargain, Bangkok met my desire for quality and price. I can’t wait to see each person’s face when as they receive their special gifts.
  • And, most importantly, the opportunity to teach—and learn from—an incredibly diverse group of international business executives, executive coaches, personal development trainers and even a bestselling author from Vietnam—all brought together by the awesome team at NLP Top Coach, who had invited me!
Bring Your Book to Life® participants
Bring Your Book to Life® participants

People had flown in from Shanghai, Myanmar, Vietnam for this workshop, and their nationalities of origin brought an additional five or six cultural contexts to the class. I learned how we are way more similar than different from each other; how easy it is to find common ground, even when language seems a barrier; how easily a tribe, a community, can form and contribute to each other’s growth and creativity. The international aspect seemed to make that connection easier, not harder!

  • From Howard, a corporate crisis-buster/commercial consultant originally from London but now based in Bangkok, I learned that acronyms can offer an amusing and curiosity-inspiring set up that draws your reader in.
  • From Danuvasin, Associate Professor and Associate Dean at the prestigious NIDA Business School in Bangkok, I learned that a Thai foot massage—WHILE YOU WRITE!—can relax your mind and stimulate your thinking!
  • From Sateesh, what a difference one word can make: “Lovingly” transformed his vision statement from an 8.5 to a 9.7. One more small change and he had a 10 (on the inspiration scale) before he left on Sunday.
  • And from Sebastien, I was reminded of the importance of generosity—in our lives, our words and our writing.

We all supported each other in our writing commitments and many of us got up at 4 or 5 in the morning to write. HEAVEN!group

Oh, there were so many lessons, big and small, and I promise I will soon have a new vehicle to truly share this Bangkok adventure with you. But in the meantime, as long as we are on the theme of transcending fear, here are a few thoughts about fear and writing:

As writers, we often face—or try to run from—our fears:

  • Fear of the blank page
  • Fear of revealing too much of yourself
  • Fear of not revealing enough
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of success

When we face our fears—or “feel the fear and do it anyway”—we are rewarded for our efforts. No writing gets done if we allow fear to rule us.

Here are 4 ways to skirt past fear: Share on X
  • Do something you love first. Doing something you enjoy can put you in a heightened state where there is less space for fear to control you. In Bangkok, I did my Qigong meditation to put me in a calm and happy state. What do you love to do? What makes you happy?
  • Get support. Meet a friend at a café or library for writing time. The presence of another person can often help you get past your fear. In class, several people commented how helpful—and easy— it was to be writing with others. Who can be your “buddy”? Can you meet by email, phone or Skype, or is face-to-face more powerful for you?
  • Make a commitment. Your commitment to another person can lessen the fear. In my mind, I had been “too busy to write” for several weeks before traveling to Thailand. Of course, for a writer whose lifeblood is writing, “no time” is just Fear in one of its many disguises. By making a commitment to the class participants, I had to write. I couldn’t be in integrity and not write. Believe me, fear showed up in the morning, but I wrote anyway. And, gosh, am I grateful!
  • Get in a Habit. In Bangkok, my groove means going to bed by 9 or 10 and wake up around 5 to write. In Rhode Island, I may need a new plan. I do know that writing by habit makes it so much easier to write in the face of fear. So, feel free to call me on it when I get home and ask me what new habit I’ve come up with (there’s commitment, again!).

Here’s the thing:

Fear is small-minded and weak. It’s not even a worthy opponent for your fabulous Self. Once you’re writing, fear is powerless to stop you. The 700 pound gorilla is smaller than an ant. So, find your way to write “despite.” Please comment on what works for you.


rehydrating-with-coconut-waterWhile writing this post, I received an email from Luke Salway, General Manager of NLP Top Coach, the company that invited me to teach book writing in Thailand. Apparently, we’re traveling to lunch tomorrow near the trendy EmQuartier.

On the back of his motorcycle.

If you’ve experienced the Bangkok traffic and noticed the huge dents in practically every taxicab around, if you’ve almost been run over by a car more than once, you’d know that it’s a bit fear-inducing to ponder this next adventure.

Now, Luke offered me an out. But he also promised to drive carefully.

How can I write about fear and do otherwise? Especially my last day on this exotic adventure.

“Do you have an extra helmet?”
“You’re on.”

Yes, one more adventure to write about.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ginger says

    Hey, Lisa,
    What an extraordinary adventure! As a writer, a novel & memoir coach, and a fearful flyer I am filled with admiration and joy for you that you transcended your fears and did this marvellous thing. I know your students learned an enormous amount from you while you coincidentally learned so much from them and from your adventure. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thanks, Ginger! Not sure how this happened but while I was away I missed a bunch of comments and just saw them now. I remember your blog post about being a fearful flyer–that was inspiring, as well!

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