After sitting through some engaging writing exercises with about 22 people at Austin’s BookWoman, I had an opportunity to communicate with some of writer Natalie Goldberg’s passionate adherents, who are also writers. They shared some information about how their authentic writer emerges through writing practices of Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg’s recent book, The True Secret of Writing was the feature book. Following is some of the input from two of Goldberg’s adherents:
Saundra Goldman: Teacher of In Process Writing Workshops and Retreats
I wanted to know how Goldman separates the writer and the editor when working on a project. Her explanation hovered between the simple and the profound, and I share it here. “Before I began writing process, I always wrote on the computer, composing as I went. Writing practice frees the mind to create in the moment. Editor comes in later to clean up.”
One of Natalie Goldberg’s practices that she adheres closely to is the practice of walking and writing. I asked Goldman to share how it has helped her. She said she gets the benefit of concentrating better and having her mind to slow down. Adding clarity to that comment, she said, “But this is a practice, learned through experience, and held in the body.”
Anyone who thinks that having low moments is an excuse to not write, should consider taking a page out of Goldman’s “book.” She stated that she does it all the time, and summed it up as follows,”You pick up your pen and write. That’s the practice.”
Neena Husid: A Self-proclaimed 20-year Adherent to Goldberg’s Writing Methods
Husid gave an overview of one method of Goldberg’s that she finds beneficial. “For the past 2 1/2 years I have been practicing Natalie’s Sit-Walk-Write method as a member of Saundra Goldman’s workshops and classes.”
Husid indicated that she has employed Saundra as her personal writing coach. She emailed me that Goldman’s input (based upon Natalie Goldberg’s practices) enhanced her writing. She also reported that she’s absorbed and shared lessons from Goldberg’s books for the same time frame that she’s been her adherent.
When I asked her to pinpoint one benefit to being an adherent, she had a difficult time coming up with just one. After some reflection, she distilled her answer down to one benefit. Her response to that question follows: “I guess I’d say I’ve learned to be quiet, trust my first thoughts and go with them. Most importantly, I’ve learned and continue to glean, it’s not my job as a writer to first be funny and entertaining. It’s my job to be true to myself and let what comes come.”
She added some other useful information detailing how she’s used Goldberg’s methods for a specialized population. Her email quote follows. “For AGE of Central Texas, I teach creative writing to folks with mild cognitive impairments. Natalie’s rules for writing, particularly the ones that promote first thoughts, keeping your pen moving and corralling your self-defeating monkey mind seem to give all my students permission to access their long term memories- no matter how pedestrian they may look at first. Once they give themselves the okay to write down, for example, “I remember” they go and go and go. The ‘I remember’ prompt comes directly from a Natalie Goldberg assignment. Probably from her first book, Writing Down The Bones. Here’s and excerpt from what one of my students, a woman in her 70’s who never even kept a journal, wrote given that prompt.”
I remember eating watermelon on the front porch in the summer time and my mother sending me to the garden to pick vegetables for dinner. I remember feeding the chickens in the barnyard and my parents milking the cows. I remember feeding the pigs and gathering eggs from the coop. I remember pretending to drive the car, playing with my cousins and dressing up in clothes too big for me.
It seems that Natalie Goldberg has created a ripple effect by sharing her tried-and-true writing strategies with an ever-widening audience. By any measure, she has set the bar high for writing authentically. Her recent book is apparently only one method she uses to offer writing wisdom out of her own secret treasuries. She drew from a deep writing well that she discovered while she was striving to produce authentic content. Now, others are dipping into that well and coming up dripping with their own treasures.