“It's the process of writing and life that matters... We are trying to become sane along with our poems and stories.”
In college, I assumed that since I’d mastered the art of sitting down at the typewriter to write first draft/final copy in one shot, I could easily become a novelist. Yeah, just sit down and do it. Twenty some years later, when I became serious about becoming a writer—as opposed to only talking about being one—I discovered writing the next, great American novel wasn’t going to come easily. That perhaps all the people who claimed they just sat down and the words flowed in final form were big, fat liars. That there was this thing called the craft of writing. That writing was rewriting. And that if I wanted to label myself a writer, I needed to get serious.
Not until I took on Writing Down the Bones did I discover that writing was like any other venture in life – to be good at it required practice. Shocked me. I hate to practice anything and I surely didn’t want to do no stinkin' writing practice. I only wanted to get published. But that was the beauty of Natalie Goldberg’s teaching. That practice is good.
I'm still not sure I classify myself as a writer, but as I wrote in my last post, I had the pleasure of attending a reading/question answer period for new book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. In a discussion of “memwhah”, Natalie described it as a cracking open of your life. We no longer need to wait until the end of our lives to write one and that it is a study of the human mind, the textures of the mind.
I find that most interesting. That I can take a tiny moment in my life and just by putting it down in words, discover such intimacies that often surprise me. The practice of letting my pen flow over the page and not be afraid of what comes out has released me to hone in on many aspects of my life, using my very own words and thoughts. Certainly saves money on therapy.
So much so that while taking an online class on personal essay, I wrote a simple piece about how I used to love gardening and now wondered why it had become drudgery. My most perceptive teacher, Ann McCutcheon, pointed out that the piece wasn’t about gardening. That it was about my marriage. AND that I needed to write about. No, I protested. Who wants to write about THAT? But I sucked it up and did, and discovered a sense of self I never knew existed. Also an understanding that even served to strengthen my marriage relieving the worry it might go the way of the dying plants in my untended garden. My garden now grows, sometimes with my help and sometimes not.
Ah, I’m seeing that writing a single post about how I perceived the reading on Wednesday night has only brought me to the middle of my first page of notes. I think I may have to continue this discussion during future posts.
MICHIGAN STATE ROCKS! Go Green/Go White for the Spartans Monday Night!
And that's me in the photo above - old days at MSU. Only thing missing is the beer and the cigarette. Timeline? Magic Johnson and I attended at the same time. I think he has gained more weight than me.
P.S. Wild Minds is the title of another of Goldberg's books.