This year marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, the quintessential bible on writing and writing practice. For over 40 years this master of words has taught multiple generations that, whether you want to write the Great American Novel, a blog, a poem or a page in your journal, it all begins with writing practice. Learning to connect to the moment without second guessing ourselves is probably the most important lesson on writing that I’ve ever received. I have been a devoted student of Natalie Goldberg for over 25 years and her latest works, especially The Great Spring, feeds our souls as well as our minds with each sentence. We not only read the stories, we experience them with all of our senses. That is what great writing looks like. Her many years of Zen study and practice is also intrinsically tied to her writing skills.
Whenever I am stuck on a project, or just stuck in general, I pull out my spiral notebook, grab a pen and start with Natalie’s favorite writing prompt: “I remember …”. Then I start writing whatever comes up for 10 minutes. If I run out of steam, I write “I remember …” again and keep going. The idea is to keep my hand moving. If I run out of “I remembers,” I turn it around and write: “I don’t remember.”
Another of her ideas is to look at an object, like a coffee cup or a vase of flowers, and write about that object for 10 minutes. Or to describe how something tastes, or smells, or feels, and what memories that brings up. Again, the idea is to keep your hand moving. One of her very first poems was about the experience of eating a chocolate chip cookie … I can certainly relate to that!
Sometimes we just need to go back to the basics when we get overwhelmed with trying to “be” a writer, or even just to “be” our authentic selves. Writing practice helps us to reconnect to that place inside that is our inner compass and find our way back on our path again. All of us, at one time or other in our lives, can benefit from a refresher course on life!
Blessings and peace.