I was entranced by the candid, encouraging and graceful presence of Natalie Goldberg earlier this month. She spoke as the keynote at the Write on the Sound Writers’ Conference in Edmonds, WA the first weekend of this month and the theater was packed.
Natalie is very famous for her book Writing Down the Bones. She began her talking by jumping right into her process of discovering herself and becoming a writer.
Her first plan of action was to think of the thing that had brought her the most pleasure in the world. This turned out to be selling raffle tickets for a goldfish when she was a small child.
This fun entrepreneurial spirit morphed into her banding together with like-minded individuals and beginning a natural foods restaurant. This, combined with a poetry book filled with lines about food inspired her to write about the foods that she she lived and breathed in the restaurant.
Natalie went on to study many things, including Zen, and after years of practice, she decided she had learned three extremely important things from it. She shared these with us.
1. Continue Under All Circumstances
2. Don’t Be Tossed Away
3. Make Positive Effort for the Good.
I would like to explore these three lessons and what a writer can draw from them. First, Continue Under All Circumstances:
This lesson has to speak to the times when I don’t want to continue, otherwise, why would I need the reminder?
If I am sick, I or have a big event that may impact my writing schedule, or if I’ve suffered a huge loss, none of these are reasons to retire my pen.
To be honest, some of my best work has occurred when I was unhappy. I’ve had a lot of great work when I am happy, too. If I only write when I am happy, and I missing out on everything good I might have also written when I was sad/busy/tired?
How do we find it within ourselves to continue when laziness, exhaustion or even deep grief seems to build a wall in front of us?
I pray. That should always be the first thing that I do, but sometimes my “continuing under all” looks more like me barking at myself in a drill sergeant voice. Trust me, it’s not nearly as comforting.
After praying, it helps to remind myself that writing is so much more than creating for others–it’s the way I have found to most closely express myself. Writing is therapy, food, play, work, art, sorrow, rage, determination, trust, and of course many other things to me.
I believe we must continue in all circumstances with our writing even when we do not know what the writing will do for us. Trust that no word is ever wasted, and allow yourself a dedication without 100% comprehension.
I read in the Artist’s Way that when it comes to our art, we just take care of the quantity and let God take care of the quality.
Our responsibility is to continue under all circumstance.
Next time, thoughts on Don’t Be Tossed Away.