I am looking out at a sun dappled afternoon with evergreens shimmering in the clear light, branches swaying in the slight breeze. I listen to Haydn in an attempt to block out the sounds of football in the next room and rap over my head. And I’m thinking about the book on writing by Natalie Goldberg that I finished last week. Her books always push me, like a parent or mentor might push a reluctant child or student to try something new or work harder.
She stresses writing practice–write and keep on writing! She actually suggests two years of constant writing practice before attempting a book. Probably sound advice. In the book, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, she gives different writing practice scenarios: on one’s own at home, in a cafe, with a friend, at a retreat or other group, for a short time or for a day or longer.
She addresses the fears and voices that nag at writers to give up, that no one will ever read their work, that they are no good, that there are much better ways to use one’s time, etc. The only antidote, it seems, is to simply keep writing through it.
The chapter that I took away with me, that stood out from the rest, was “She Had To Love Chocolate”. As Natalie describes writing her first novel, she said, “Now it was demanding courage of me. I couldn’t hide behind my tintype characters, I had to give them muscle. I had to hand over my life force to them, show my real raw self, not just the self I’d like everyone to believe in.” (p. 59) She had been writing while trying to hide the truth, to make sure she would never offend a reader with what she wrote. Everything was stiff and unrealistic. She had to release her characters to become all they were supposed to be, to let them have experiences and say what they needed to, without worrying what readers would think. This is how her novel came to life and then gradually took on a life of its own. This resonated with me, as I know how often I censor my writing out of fear of offending.
What books on writing have inspired you lately? What is one thing you learned?