Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass – Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass - Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life

A lot of writers get blocks. Sometimes those blocks have to do with story ideas, with the fear that their idea sucks, that they don’t have the writing chops to pull off a novel.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with worry that trolls will ridicule their story, nobody will read it, everyone will hate it.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with the fear of typos, of not being perfect.

But they all have to do with fear.

As a writing coach, I have to talk to a lot of writers about their blocks and their fears. And recently, I realized that adopting Tim Ferriss’s ‘fear setting’ approach could help a ton of the writers-students that I love so much.

Goals are brilliant, Ferris says. Resolutions? Fantastic.

But nothing happens with those goals and resolutions if you are too afraid to make the steps.

So he delves into those fears and explores them and determines the potential and the risk.

That’s what you need to do with your writing (and your life).

Ferris’s process is quite refined and quite simple. We have links in the podcast notes on so that you can find them in Ferris’s own extended version. He also has a TedTalk about them.

But it begins like this:“Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need—to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?

Next, think about what you could do to fix it if that worst-case scenario happens. Write it down. Was it not quite as hard as your fear made you think it would be?

Next what are the benefits, the potential, the outcomes in forever ways and transient ways of all those scenarios and possibilities? Would you be more confident? Happier? Would you have more money? Make a scale of 1-10 and rate those outcomes.

He asks,

What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous business people for advice.

And how is this hurting you? By not doing something because of your fear how are you hurting yourself? Inaction also has a cost. It’s just a cost that seems easier because it doesn’t seem to rely on as much choice.

Ferris has some fantastic slides from his TedTalk that relate to this, too.

A lot of us who write novels, talk about the big lie that dominates our main character’s life, the wrong belief that dictates and holds the character back.

Fear is our big lie in the story of our lives.

All of us have our own big lie or lies. We worry so much about what might go wrong that we are afraid to embrace what might go right. We live so much in our heads that we fail to live in our world. We allow the fear, the lie, to hold us down. Our fear is also a symptom of our lie.

It’s good to see how that’s holding you back. Just like we want the characters in our novels to have transition arcs and evolve, so should we, right?

Dog Tip for Life

Don’t let your fear control your life.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Use the big lie and your characters’ fears to show their transition throughout the story.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!



So, today is our first BE BRAVE FRIDAY featuring the stories of people who are not Carrie.

Why are we doing this?

We’re doing this because in a world where everything can feel like crap and overwhelming sometimes, it’s good to celebrate and lift each other up.

We don’t censor these letters and stories. We read them verbatim. You can be anonymous or like Dee and Tez, you can tell your name.

Let us celebrate you. Let’s inspire each other, okay?

I hope you’ll take a second to listen to Dee and Tez’s story.

Trigger warnings: Mental health, cancer, ill parent.

Awesome warnings: Braveness. Persistence. Facing your fears.


Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.




Email us at


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.

And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones


Be Brave Friday

Being scared doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Admitting that your anxious, afraid, upset? That’s called being honest. Being honest isn’t weakness no matter how many people might try to deny your truths and tell you that it is.

Being honest is being brave.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bravery as: “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty; the quality or state of being brave; courage.”

I know you are all being brave in big a ways and small, facing danger, fear, difficulties and I so admire you.

Act with love not fear, okay?

Create safe spaces for yourself and for others. Be a warrior about it. Be a love warrior. A bravery warrior. You can do this.

Here is my painting for BE BRAVE FRIDAY. The oil is still wet. But you’ll forgive me, right? It is still terribly hard for me to share these whenever I do, I feel like I’m about to explode into flames.

<3 So much love to all of you.


The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 216,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

Link to Jose’sbonus interview.

This week’s episode link. 


I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!


It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead

It all began with my mom freaking out about a feather.

My mom has always been afraid of birds. That fear started long before I existed and was made worse by a visit to a science museum in Boston where an owl swooped near her head and glared at her. Apparently, that powerful owl glare was enough to push her over the edge.

I wasn’t allowed to have bird feeders or stuffed animal birds. If there were robins outside on our lawn, Mom would avert her eyes and draw the shades in the windows.

My mother’s fear of birds grew so big that she screeched when I was four years old and proudly brought a peacock feather home from a nursery school field trip to a wild animal farm. I was so psyched about this feather, which I won by answering a bunch of animal questions correctly.

The feather made me feel super smart for the first time in my little life. It was my prize and my reward and I was the only one in the whole nursery school who received one. It was like a Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer in my four-year-old head. It was such a super big deal and I knew — I just was absolutely positive — that my mom would be psyched and put it on the wall and maybe frame it or something while she announced to all her friends, “My youngest daughter, Carrie? She is so smart. So smart, I tell you! See this feather? It proves it.”

When I presented the coveted prize to my mom, she screamed and made me throw the feather outside.

“Get it out! Get that dirty thing out of our house!” she yelled. Actually, she screeched.

I remember pivoting in our heavily wooded, dark kitchen, running out to the screened-in porch, and into our yard. I took the peacock feather to a giant boulder where I played deserted island and Wizard of Oz and all my lonely made-up games, and I climbed up to the top of the rock.

Once there, I kissed the feather, the dirty thing, goodbye. I cried because it was so beautiful and I won it and then I had to let it go.

I let that beautiful feather go. I didn’t hold onto it the way we tend to hold onto our fears. It is just so hard to let go of our fears. That’s especially true for my poor mom who wouldn’t go to friends’ houses if they had birds in cages. She hated the beach because birds were at the beach. Every year black birds would hang out on our front lawn during their migration. There would be hundreds of them. She’d call in sick to work. Her fear held her back over and over again.

Years after the peacock incident, my mom ran screaming from a park where we were having a picnic with my daughter who was then two. A seagull had come too close. Too close was about a football field away.

When I caught up with my mom, she was standing in the doorway of a local restaurant, shaking.

“Don’t judge me!” she said. She was reapplying her lipstick with a shaking hand.

I grabbed her hand in mine because the lipstick application was not going well.

“I’m not judging you,” I told her, “but I don’t want Em to grow up afraid.”

That’s when I realized that my mom missed out on so much of life even though she was the liveliest, absolutely most alive person I knew. She missed out because she listened to her fear.

My daughter grew up to study Krav Maga in Israel, to apply and get in to Harvard, to become a field artillery officer in the Army. She’s jumped off roofs at stunt camp, log rolled, rock climbed, was the flyer of her cheerleading squad. She is known for picking up birds that she finds in parking lots, shopping centers, and bringing them to safety.

She is bold and unafraid most of the times. She’s not a fan of spiders, but she deals with them. Even when she is afraid, she faces her fears, snarls at them, and tells them to stand down.

She made my poor mom’s heart race and palpitate more than once.

Even for those of us who don’t have phobias like my Mom, the biggest fears that we have are often the ones about not being enough, not smart enough, not loved enough, just not enough. Of failure. Of being imperfect. Of being alone. There are so many fears we punish ourselves with. But we don’t have to listen to those fears. We can face the fears, see them for what they are and ignore the fears’ advice to cower, to yell, to blame, to run away.

My mother was afraid of a feather.

A feather.

And our fears? The ones we hold inside of us? The ‘not good enough’ moments that feel so dam real? They are even less substantial than that feather.

That’s right. Those fears are not even as heavy as a feather, nowhere near as substantial. Still, we let them hurt us and hold us back.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to let them hold you back.

Here’s the other thing: You can’t ignore your fear and you can’t give in to it. You have to jump headlong into the scariness and embrace the fear and snarl at it and know what it is. What is it? Fear is that voice that rings so loudly in your brain telling you what to do or what not to do. When you refuse to listen to it? That’s when you win.

You can beat your fears.

What are you afraid of? What makes you shake and cower? Not your phobias. But your fears. Are you afraid of failing so much that you don’t try to succeed? Bankruptcy? Not being loved? Commitment? Being evil? Being good? Being taken advantage of? Taking advantage of others? Face them head on because those fears are keeping you from being your best self.

I’m trying to be my best self. I fail a lot! So much! But I hope you’ll grab my hand even when it’s shaking and try with me. I think we can do this. Together.

Email or comment if you want to say hi and talk about it, okay?

Latest podcast is here!

Continue reading “Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead”

Facing Your Fears

I make a big deal about being brave. That’s because I have a lot of anxiety about certain things:


  1. My voice
  2. Being in videos
  3. Showing art
  4. Dead clowns reanimating.
  5. People I love dying.

Anyway, I’m pretty open about the things that make me nervous and over on Facebook, I’ve been having Be Brave Fridays where I do something that I am uncomfortable about and encourage others to be brave, too.

So, what I’m really uncomfortable about is showing my art. That’s because of a couple things:

  1. It’s really personal
  2. I’m not trained
  3. My mother.

As I told a lovely woman that I met on Friday night, “My mom was amazing, but she had really defined notions of what our family could and couldn’t do.”

The lady said, “Oh, I get this. My mother is the same way. I get this.”

According to my Mother, If we were going to create things, it was supposed to be:

  1. Meat-based meals
  2. Babies.
  3. Writing
  4. Music.

She said to me on multiple occasions when I was little, “Nobody in this family has an artistic bone in their body. None of us can draw a straight line.”

But I really wanted to draw straight lines and make comics and paintings. I knew there was no point though.

None of us can draw a straight line.

I spent years and years wishing I could draw or paint. I spent years and years wishing I could make images without words.

Not an artistic bone.

When I was divorcing, I gave in and bought paint. I would stay up late into the night, painting. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was the only way I could think to get my emotions out into the world so that they wouldn’t fester inside of me.

It didn’t matter that they sucked because nobody would see them. I would paint over canvasses because I didn’t have enough money to buy more canvas. I would paint on newspaper pages (not a good idea), on the backs of old-fashioned notebooks, on anything.

Not an artistic bone in my body?

It seemed pretty true.

I became a writer and I wrote novels, but sometimes I would still get these images in my head. I would need to get them out.

So, I’d trudge down into the basement and paint.

It’s cold in the basement. The kitty litter box is in the basement. It’s easy to hide down in that basement. I hid.

Sometimes when I get stuck in a story, or can’t work out its theme, I paint.

Sometimes when I get lost inside my emotions, I paint.

A woman said to me on Friday, “You wrote all these books, too? I have never met anyone who is good at both before.”

And I laughed and was all self-disparaging and said, “You still haven’t.”

She gave me a look and said, “Oh, honey. Yes, I have.”

Oh, honey. Yes, I have.

Even writing that now? It makes me get all teary-eyed.

Painting is the places inside of me where I can’t make words work, where I can’t get things to express themselves via writing, so I have to go deeper.

There are places that are deeper than words.

It’s hard to show that to the world especially when:

  1. You haven’t been trained
  2. Nobody in your family can draw a straight line
  3. There’s not an artistic bone in your body.
  4. You live in a world where being vulnerable and authentic is often derided and scorned.

I started Be Brave Fridays because I was tired of hiding. I posted paintings even though I was positive not one single person would be kind. But people were kind and one person, Aymie Walsh (co-owner of CoeSpace in Bangor) sent me a message and asked me if I wanted to be in an Art Walk.

An Art Walk is a thing where people go from site to site and check out different artists. It all takes place during a set time period in a location like a city or downtown.

When Aymie sent me that message? I thought she might be punking me. I texted my daughter and she said, “Do it! Do it! Do it!”

My daughter is the bravest human I know. She’s faced all her fears now. She’s a field artillery officer. She went to Harvard. She’s jumped off buildings. She’s survived me being her mother.

Yes, there is a dog hanging out in the corner.

So, I said yes.

I said yes even though I kept hearing those phrases, wrapping themselves around my heart, over and over again.

Nobody in this family has an artistic bone in their body. None of us can draw a straight line.

I was an anxious wreck all last Friday. I had one of those existential life crisis moments where I didn’t know why I bothered to exist at all. I was a punk all day. I had so many fears.

So many.

Then we put up all my paintings on the beautiful white walls of CoeSpace. And something inside me shattered.

This could not be real.

I expected nobody to come. I expected people to mock me to my face. I expected to hear those same sentences only slightly twisted around.

You don’ t have an artistic bone in your body. You can’t even draw a straight line.

What are you trying to do?

Here’s the thing though. Nobody said those words to me.

But here’s the bigger thing. Even if they had said those words? They don’t get to make those words real. Only I get to make those words real. Only I get to have that power over who I am and what I want to be.

That’s something I have to learn over and over again in my life. That’s something that I have to remember and paint through because that realization? It’s a heart realization. It’s a soul realization. And it’s too big for words.

There are much better things to tell ourselves, to sing into our stories, and to bind our hearts with.

Oh, honey. Yes, you have.

Those words.

Those words made me braver. Aymie made me braver. My poor, sweet family that dealt with me all day? They made me braver.

I want you to be brave, too. Go after the person you want to be, okay? Sing out your story in the melodies that you want to hear. Become.


You can. You have. You will.

Over and over again.



My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

Art News

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

Three Hot Tips on Facing Your Fears When Things Get Scary

This past weekend was sort of scary.


Why was it scary? Carrie’s worst case scenario of presenting happened. She was scheduled to give a four-hour seminar on public image, but when she arrived the place wasn’t unlocked, there was no water, but worse- there was no A/V. It was not pretty.

And then…

We went to a party, a SNL-themed party, and because our friends are good at peer pressure and we were dressed as Spartan cheerleaders, we stunted and Carrie had to jump on Shaun’s back in a short skirt (with modesty shorts!) and she was so nervous that she actually got sweaty.

So, it turns out that Carrie was totally afraid to do a cheering stunt.

Carrie:This is because I am old and have broken knees.

spartans costume
spartans costume – photo by Raney Bench

And Shaun had to face his fear by actually performing the cheer.

Writing (like living) can be full of fear.

Over on The Write Practice, Jeff Elkinstells of “Three Tricks to Overcome Your Fear of Writing.”

How does he deal with the fear?

His three tips for overcoming that fear of writing are:

  1. He names it.
  2. He leans into it.
  3. Meditates through it.

And he also has this awesome idea for desensitizing yourself from fear, which is our …..


Take fifteen minutesto write something that scares you. Maybe it’s a scene you’ve been avoiding in your work in progress, maybe it’s a story you’ve been nervous to start, or maybe it’s a letter you’re scared to write. As you work, if fear raises its head, try one of the techniques above to work through it. – Jeff Elkins

Dogs are Smarter than People the writing podcast
SNL party, selfie by Thom Willey


Dogs have all kinds of fears just like people do. When dogs have fears, we use treats to encourage them for brave behavior, we don’t force them out of their safe places, and we don’t shove their fear in their face and shout “GET OVER IT, BUDDY.”

Because that’s not cool.

We deserve to give ourselves the same respect. Reward yourself for being brave, don’t insist on pushing yourself into your fear too hard and too fast.

Dogs are Smarter than People the writing podcast
Don’t push yourself, man.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.


Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM


I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

PastWrite. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here


Apply Now!


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