Seoul

Korean writer Lily Eunah Go: “Overcome fear with your own activity”

For most schoolkids, homework is a drag. Yet for Korean writer Lily Eunah Go, everything started at elementary school with simple writing tasks. That surprising start inflamed her passion for writing and culminated in 3892a personal story about her journey to self-discovery that challenges traditional views on beauty in South Korea. We spoke about her literary beginnings, creativity, health and the importance of mentally detoxing every day

Writing as therapy

What inspired you to write?

I really enjoyed creative writing at elementary school. Our teacher made us write a daily diary for homework, which I enjoyed so much I wanted to write more and more. I wrote my first story as a passion project; only my mum knew about it.

Writing often seems like a lot of really hard work and self-discipline.

Too true! I can be awfully lazy, so I definitely need a plan to stick to. So I tell everyone I’ll upload my writing at a certain time. To keep the promise, I have to write.  

How do you deal with writer’s block?

It can be frustrating. I try to accept my feelings. If I can, I go to nature, to find relaxation in space and time. I explore the depths of my mind to examine the questions running through my head, and in that way find the inspiration thatI express in words for my readers.

Many people project a successful and positive external image, while feeling less happy inside. What’s your recipe for keeping calm and carrying on?

I was always very jealous of people who looked more successful and better than me – it was really hard to control my negative feelings. I have several coping strategies in that situation: writing, of course; physical movement; relaxing in nature; meditating. I need to be patient and humble, and keep moving forward. Life is long and I believe I can successfully find the balance between inner feeling and external projection.


What makes a good story a really great story?

Honesty to yourself and others. Being able to express what’s happening inside. Because I always wanted to present a happy front, I hid my ugly emotions so they couldn’t hurt anyone except me. We’re all human and although we look different, we’re all one – connected in some way. We can all relate to how being honest can deeply touch others’ hearts.

“I was only 38 kg and wanted to gain weight, while she was 92 kg and wanted to slim down.”

And what makes a good book title? What’s the story behind the number 3892?

Well, it’s a book about two girls with contrasting body weight goals. One girl was only 38 kilograms and wanted to gain weight, while the other was 92 kilograms and wanted to slim down. So I transposed the two figures for the book’s distinctive title. The book follows their personal developments through fitness goals and the journey towards womanhood. It’s a real story – not fictional – that I wrote with my friend Inhwa.

What inspired you and Inhwa to write it all down?

Well, it all started when we met up some time after graduating. She was like a new person, about 40 kg lighter. I was amazed! We got talking and I thought our contrasting weight-loss/weight-gain stories could be really fun told side by side. She was initially a bit reluctant to write, but after six months it was full steam ahead!

We started to slowly write our story on a blog. Sometimes it was really hard because it hurt to look back at ourselves: how we were, the dark chapters of life. But, hey, you live and learn, and writing gave us the opportunity to draw on that inspiration and develop it into something positive. With mutual support and feedback, we motivated each other word by word.

“While writing this book, I had a long talk with myself and learned a lot from the experience.”

Body-perception issues used to be taboo, but are now openly discussed on social media. What was your personal motivation to write about this sensitive subject?

As a youngster, I always hated being very thin; I just wanted to be normal. And as I got older, I wanted to be more beautiful as I thought I wasn’t pretty enough. I was sick and tired of being told I was skinny. Inhwa had a similar experience as she grew up, but for being too big.

With the book we aim to tell people how to live a healthy life – both physically and mentally – reach for your goals and, most importantly, love yourself!

That sounds like a very admirable aim and positive message. Practically speaking, how should people set about achieving that?

People need to ask why they want to live healthier and get to know their true selves. And then produce a me-centred plan and stick to it; self-love is expressed through step-by-step progress. And, of course, asking for support or advice from someone already living a healthy internal and external life is great too! 

Can you tell us how you started improving your health?

There’s no magic formula, it’s just a question of doing the basics regularly and being faithful to your goals. So, lots of exercise and a good diet: sweating + healthy eating = a new healthy me!

On being healthy

Korean views on beauty, ideal weight and appearance are quite strict. Did you break any social taboos?

Living a balanced life – everything in moderation. One of the things that helps me clear my mind is yoga. It removes negative thoughts – then I feel happier, and when I feel happier I’m more creative.

Writing, yoga, any other pleasures?

I’ve got green fingers! I love growing plants! I also love to read books, of course, and learn new things. I love travelling, and spending time with those I love. I also like lifting weights and hiking in the countryside.

How do you like to end your day? 

I meditate at dawn and dusk. I focus on my breathing when I get stressed, and I practise yoga 3–4 times a week. After showering, I practise light yoga with my fiancé in soft candlelight. Sometimes I use aroma oils to refresh my mind and play nature sounds. That really helps me relax and then I sleep really well.


Photography by Denis Bosnič