I don’t like to brag, but today while shopping in my mountain village, I had two people randomly compliment me on my earrings. I had only made them the day before.

I’m no stranger to beading my own earrings, but this is the first time I had tried such a complex pattern. My friend Toni is an art therapist and she uses her beads in her work. A few times she has invited me over to hers to make jewellery together. I love it!

Toni and I both worked on the same design, based on a pair Toni already owned. It took four solid hours.**

But being more adventurous than I, Toni sent her work through several morphologies. After creating the full pattern, she squeezed it all into the palm of her hand until it was a tangled mess and checked to see if it looked any more interesting in that condition. Then she pulled it all back into shape and repositioned it until it was sitting on two planes rather than one. Finally, she squashed it flat again, like the earrings in the photograph.

Toni’s experiments were bold and courageous and I was jealous of her disregard for consequences.

How I would like my research proposal to appear.

In the end, we both decided that our earrings would look better if we removed the bead we started with. If you look at the pic you can see that the earring has one focal point: the rectangular green bead. The bead I discarded was a darker green, egg-shaped thing and it would have sat just underneath the hook. But…two focal points was uncomfortable for the eye and disturbing to the mind. And there is more than enough to discomfort and disturb in this life already. The extra bead had to go.


The issue of the unwanted bead reminded me of my writing process. After I have written a piece, I often decide that the first sentence is unnecessary and delete it. Not out of any lack of respect for the sentence. In fact, I am grateful. The first sentence is the tap that I turn to get the story flowing, but only rarely does it remain part of the composition at the end of the day. Yet without it, the rest of the page would never have spurted (or dribbled) forth.

Which leads me to today’s personal issue: I am having trouble finishing my research proposal. All the elements are there, but I am struggling to make myself sound smart and focussed and…

I have flirted with various ways of of tricking myself into finishing. I could pretend that the research proposal belongs to somebody else and I have been paid to write it on their behalf. I could play-act that I am an experienced academic, certain of my positions and expected outcomes, clear on my procedure.

How my research proposal actually appears.

The first earrings I ever made were three little beads on a straight metal shaft twisted into a small circle at the end and attached to a hook. They weren’t much, but they were everything in my developing world of jewellery making. I had taken discrete elements and fashioned them into something enjoyable, beautiful, wearable. The same friend, Toni was beside me on that day, too, cheering me on and being impressed by my fledgling efforts.


If I were to sit down tomorrow and work on my next piece of jewellery, maybe it would be as complex as the piece above, but I hope it wouldn’t be as wobbly. Or maybe it would be even more complex and just as wobbly. I could practice the skills I already have, bedding down my technique, or I could challenge myself with something newer, crazier. I could do whatever I want. And I can accept the stage I am at. The newer, crazier, wobblier stage.

It occurs to me that every graduate research proposal is written about that which the student knows something but not everything and each proposal contains the seed and promise of something new. A kernel of hope.

My research proposal may be as freshly developed and wobbly as my new earrings. But it will contain all the colour, delight and promise of a deftly crafted work to come.


**Including gossip.


[I am flogging off my novel, Stroke the Tiger’s Tail to raise money for Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group. Read some reviews here and buy it from Createspace or Amazon.]

It sneaks up on you in a gentle but real way. So beautifully constructed. It got right into me and at points brought me to tears.



2 thoughts on “How I used therapeutic beading to overcome impostor syndrome for good.*

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