Every writer has inspiration and tricks of the trade so I thought I’d share one of mine here today: Ms. Frizzle.

Yep. Ms. Frizzle. I’ll explain:

If, like me, you were not in elementary school in the 90s (me, I was in high school wearing way-too-much-black eyeliner and kissing boys while listening to brand new Nirvana tapes, you understand), you might not have heard about The Magic School Bus. It’s a cartoon show about a magical teacher named Ms. Frizzle who takes her class on a Magic School Bus to strange and wonderful places. They travel through the human body, shrink to the size of bugs, travel in time to dinosaurs, go up into hurricanes, all kinds of exciting things as they learn about science. I discovered them when I was homeschooling my eldest a couple years ago and fell head over heels for the series (I’m a sucker for jokes with bad puns). The tinies adore the Magic School Bus and even though it’s a bit dated, we still watch the shows often. (You can catch the show on Netflix now.)

Anyway, one of Ms. Frizzles favourite ways to teach is to drop the kids into the middle of the experience and say “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”

image source

I love that.

I have been in a bit of a rut as a writer since I finished “Jesus Feminist.” Some of that is pace of life and scheduling, absolutely. Life is a bit busier now than I like. But even when I do write, I feel….guarded. I feel like everything I say has to be edited within an inch of its life, I’m worried about who I will offend, I edit and edit until I have said absolutely nothing. I am cautious to the point of comatose.

As you may imagine, writing hasn’t been much fun for me lately. Instead of being a thrill of creation and communication, it’s become cautious and exhausting.

I’m interested in a lot of things and I have a (sometimes too) full life. But one of the things I’ve always loved about blogging is that I get to my whole self here: I get to love theology and Church talk, I get to write about mothering and family and marriage, I get to crack jokes at my own expense, I get to love Doctor Who and Call the Midwife, I get to love thrifting and knitting and pretty things as well as being a Jesus feminist, I get to be a homemaker who talks recipes and cleaning and laundry as well as a lover of literature and poetry and history and Girl Power, I love the local church and yet I don’t wear rose-coloured glasses about this stuff.

Obscurity is its own protection. When people read your stuff, you start to realise: crap, people are actually reading this stuff. And then you start to edit. And if you’re me, you edit until you are saying nothing. Or you edit until you don’t end up publishing anything at all.

So back to Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle has given me my new focus in writing this year: take chances, make mistakes, get messy.

I don’t want to overthink writing right now. I’ve decided to write like it’s fun again. I’ve decided to bench my inner critic – and ignore the thousands of Internet critics – and just write like nobody is reading it. (Which may end up happening.)

If I want to write about something, I’m going to write about it. No more overthinking, no more fear, no more worries about “what might happen” or if it “fits my brand.” Every time I am writing and I can feel my inner critic taking control away, I want to turn to The Friz: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” And keep going.

As an example, that was a big reason why I wrote the post about “biblical marriage” last week. It was a bit of an experiment. The initial news story came up over a few days, and I thought, “God, I want to write about that, the old me would have written about that.” And I didn’t. I have begun to be afraid of my anger, afraid of my passion, afraid of being my whole unedited self. Sometimes I think that I couldn’t write half the brave stuff I wrote in “Jesus Feminist” now because I have all the caveats and “but-what-abouts” and critics in my head too much. Now I have something to lose perhaps.

But then I sat back and remembered Ms. Frizzle: I want to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” And I just banged out that post in an hour on a Monday morning because I wanted to do it – heart in my throat and fully alive – because I was passionate, because I believed in it, because I thought it mattered to me. I took a chance (and yes, I ticked off a lot of people – I’m still being burned in effigy across the Internet for it), I made some mistakes with it (absolutely), and I made a mess (the blog crashed, it was uncomfortable, the post created tension).

And you know what? It was freaking brilliant.

Imperfect, messy, uncomfortable but I felt alive again. I felt like I said something, like I created something, like I ignited something, and it was awesome. Even if it didn’t matter to anyone else, the experience of it mattered to me. It wasn’t just about the topic – even though of course I’m passionate about that topic –  it was also about wanting to write something and, instead of talking myself out of it with all the logic at my disposal, I said, “to hell with it” and I wrote anyway.

I want to do that more. I want to just write when the mood strikes instead of worrying about “best times for posting” and “driving engagement” and “consistent branding.” I want to be able to get angry. (I’m not afraid of my anger in my life – why should I be afraid of it here? Often our anger is an invitation to do something.) I want to be able to be sentimental and foolish, naive and inclusive again. I want to write blog posts instead of free content for Facebook disguised as status updates, I want to write my second book! I want to create and make art and disrupt and rabble-rouse, I want my art to reflect my life.

Once you open the door, it’s true: to whom much is given, more will be given. My brain is positively teeming with ideas again, it’s like being drunk with words.  I want to write about the hard things of mothering and the glorious moments of transendence and joy. I want to write about trees being cut down in my back yard and favourite recipes and fashion, I want to write about knitting and Sherlock and the way the sun descends in the late day and inspiring Jesus feminists. (“Write all the things!“) I want sh*tty first drafts and imperfect arguments, I want sloppy love and awkward silences. I want cold mountain air instead of quiet formal living rooms.

So here’s to my writing muse, Ms. Frizzle.

Here’s to taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy again.


In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about "biblical marriage"
In which I am learning to live with the ache
thank you for sharing...
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  • Adele Chapman

    Hurrah! I can’t wait. 🙂

  • Jemelene

    I love it when you crash websites because people are talking and hopefully listening. Thank you for this. I’m sure I am not the only one who needed to today.

  • I love this! Thanks for being an example to me & so many others. I admire your bravery, your varied interests, & of course your beautiful writing.

  • JennaDeWitt

    LOVE. My favorite thing in this is that you KNOW it was freaking brilliant. It was. And it’s OK to know it.

    And it’s OK to have thoughts about All the Things and not try to force some weak consistency (Talking about writing here, not tea. Stick with me.) It’s so awesome to know what you want to write about. So a-freaking-men to the thoughts here about branding and engagement and all that social marketing crap. Get your Frizzle on, Bessey. 😉

    • Ha! Oops! I actually didn’t mean “the post” was brilliant – but thank you! – but that the “feeling” of doing it was brilliant. My bad. 🙂 I’m not quite that self-congratulatory, I promise. I love your last sentence here, too, Jenna- made my day! 🙂

      • JennaDeWitt

        haha don’t take it back now! 😉 I was hoping someone would write it in those days you were waiting, to be honest. Not being married myself, I couldn’t really speak to the topic, but you nailed it.

  • Kerri

    There’s this old word called strikhedonia Sarah – it means the pleasure of being able to say “to hell with it”. I enjoyed your post – and I have a million inner critics too. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to open the door again. Maybe you have a Ms Frizzle phrase this year instead of a word? 🙂

  • Michele Minehart

    Yes. Thank you for this. And – I want you to write another book, too!

  • Katherine Swing

    I love this! I’m also trying to rediscover my writing joy. My favorite part about this whole post? “Sherlock”. 🙂

  • Taylor Rauschkolb

    I love the Friz!
    Also, I love you, and absolutely love when you write like you did last week. That prophet voice is why I keep coming back to your words.
    Quick story–recently I shared a quote from your book on facebook, and a sweet 20-something girl, a former student in our HS ministry, commented and asked me out to coffee. God was whispering some big things over her heart, but she had been afraid to talk about it– afraid of “coming out” as a feminist here in our Oklahoma community. I got to pass on your book to her and encourage her to follow the Lord’s call on her life. Fanning that flame in her was such a sweet moment of ministry for me–thank you for your part in it.

  • I love this! What is writing if you can’t say what you want to say!? Go girl!

  • I so get this. I am not published but in all of this platform building, model following I have forgotten to be myself. Of course I plan on being wise and savy but I also plan on being free to write with passion and joy. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • YES! Oh Sarah, I’m so glad!
    I do love that show, and I’m trying to live (and write) that way myself. I sometimes wonder if Ms. Frizzle was the first one telling me to “dare greatly.”
    Looking forward to seeing what chances you take, how God redeems your mistakes, and sitting with you in the mess.

  • Drunk with words? HECK YES! xoxo

  • Robin Perrin

    Seth Godin has an amazing article that speaks to this exact feeling. You’re not writing for your critics, but for your tribe. Definitely worth the short read. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/01/the-humility-of-the-artist.html

  • Autumn

    to be honest after I read your post about Candace Bure, i was ready to critize what you wrote, but I let it go cause I didn’t to be “that” person, then I read this and WOW, you are so spot on. I can’t imagine all the feedback {postive./negative} you must have to deal with. we need to encourage and build each other up and be more like MS Frizzle….

  • Bridgette

    I love this!! I can’t wait to read how you are walking it out. Thank you for bring so much light and perspective through your words. I think I might just find a place for Ms. Frizzle in my life.

  • mizmelly

    “I want to think again of dangerous and noble
    things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and
    beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” Mary Oliver

    Go for it!!!!

  • Sandy

    Love this, Sarah. I recently read Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner. I am so often in love with the “edited version” of myself that he talks about that I forget who my true self is. Keep on writing from your true self.

    “I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.”
    ― Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

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  • Beautiful. You reminded me again why I’m a writer. So easy to get caught up in the need to ‘perform’ or impress others, or to fit with the ‘required standard’. I want to write about what I’m passionate about, what’s important, keep my writers. It’s what all writers should be doing, and it’s what’s always been best about your writing. Thanks for inspiring me again.

  • I loved the post last week, and I love this post. So encouraging to me as a writer. Good ol’ Ms. Frizzle to save the day again!

  • Jill

    I just had the same revelation and started a new blog to celebrate writing without restraint. Good for you- I can’t wait to read what you will write!

  • Hazel Flood

    Sarah, thank you so much for this post. You have done me GOOD! Like cold water on a hot day, you have refreshed me..oh yes!
    And I do so look forward to reading more of your heart on paper 🙂

  • Hannah Schaefer

    I love this.

  • Judy

    Ah, there you are…welcome back, kiddo. And as for Ms. Frizzle, whom I fondly remember from my kids tiny days, well, her modus operandi reminds me a lot of your littlest one, don’t you think?

  • Holy toledo that was good!

  • So, so great. I’ve actually been looking at that same quote from Ms. Frizzle in tandem with this one from Nelson Mandela:

    “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

    And they’ve been blowing my mind and messing me up…What if I actually started living my life like this? Making decisions based on my hopes instead of protecting myself from failure or mistakes or rejection?

    Love this post!

  • Brent

    Having faithfully watched “The Magic School Bus” back when I was a kid, I was pleasantly surprised to read your piece and using the character of Ms. Frizzle as one of your sources of inspiration. Thank you so much for this well-written piece and for also providing a rather positive shot of nostalgia.

  • This post was nothing short of ‘freaking brilliant’ as well. Cant’ wait to read your book.. and the second one 😉

  • This is perfect. Thank you! I struggle to “just write” and I am sure only a handful of people read what I write. It’s such a struggle to be real, even though that’s what I want more than anything. I look forward to reading as you follow your muse. 🙂

  • Love Ms. Frizzle and love this! Can’t wait to see where this takes you. And today I needed this encouragement to be messier and mistakey-er, edit less, and trust my gut more. Off to write!

  • Cheers! I’ve been feeling much the same way and it’s nice to hear it said out loud.

    Keep writing, Sarah Bessey.

  • I started reading your writing as Emerging Mummy and have enjoyed your journey to Jesus feminism. But, I do miss your old observations-on-life blogs. Looking forward to hearing your Ms. Frizzle messy, real thoughts!

  • Carly Gelsinger

    Every blogger should read this. When I start writing picturing a certain person reading, I start writing in someone else’s voice, and it’s much more timid. Thank you.


  • MorganGuyton

    One of the best therapists I ever had told me that I needed to get out my box of Legos I had from when I was a kid and start playing with them to kind of get past the ruthless self-analysis loop that I was caught in. Ever since then, I’ve really believed in being playful although I don’t always live that way.

  • Hilary @ KatrinkaJane

    You remind me of Matt Walsh! 🙂
    P.S. in real life, I think we’d be friends

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  • Megan Westra

    I pulled Ms. Frizzle on the worship team I lead after reading this.
    It was amazing. We played Rend Collective on the fly in rehearsal and it sounded horrible, but we tried, we laughed, and there was something holy about it.

    I think we all need to take a few more chances and make a few more messes.