January Journal: Day 7



I spent an unknown numbers of hours, starting sometime in September and ending at the end of December, copying down quotes from Writing Down the Bones, the brilliant book by Natalie Goldberg on creating a writing practice. So much of what Goldberg writes wakes me up in the same way that Annie Dillard does.

Even in the xii pages, Goldberg was saying things like,

Writing can give you confidence, can train you to wake up. / I had to get slow and dumb....and watch and see how everything connects... / Believe me, you, too, can find your place inside the huge terrain of writing. No one is so odd as to be left out.

By the time the page numbers start, she is on a roll and we, the writers-in-training, are already pumped.

This book is about....using your writing as your practice, as a way to help you penetrate your life and become sane...To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life. / Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, "I am free to write the worst junk in the world." / One poem or story doesn't matter one way or the other. It's the process of writing and life that matters...We are trying to become sane along with our poems and stories.

I better stop or I'm bound to keep going. It took me three months but I finally did it. I finally copied, to my heart's content, all 111 passages from Goldberg's book that meant something important to me.

Now when I read them, I am thrilled. I am thrilled to be encouraged, reminded, prodded, even let off the hook sometimes.

She ventures from these kinds of words:

My ideal is to write every day. I say it is my ideal. I am careful not to pass judgment or create anxiety if I don't do that. No one lives up to his ideal.

To these kinds of words:

It is important to have a way worked out to begin your writing...Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write. That is painful. Writing is so simple, basic, and austere. Don't be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something - "I really want to be a writer" - then that little voice comes along, "but I might not make enough money as a writer." "Oh, okay, then I won't write." That's being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don't be tossed away.

I'm sorry but I just can't help it. If I open my commonplace book a single second, it is like opening a wound, a bleeding desire to tell somebody else how much the words I've copied in there save me and keep saving me. These are the words that create and recreate me, that keep me from being tossed away by my "monkey mind," that keep me writing on a snowy Saturday when I look outside and make myself try to think of things I would like about snow if I liked it.

It looks pretty on palm trees.

It made TJ's early morning flight get cancelled so he could be home for a family breakfast and sledding with the kids before he left for his trip today.

It recorded the deer tracks in our driveway.

It's much, much less common now than where we used to live.

It gets the kids outside on a winter day.

It brightens up the house, which brightens up my heart.

Goldberg says, We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips..."

Even to snow.