Monday, August 30, 2010

"Explore the rugged edge of thought."


I used to be very anti-books-about-writing. To write, you cannot read about writing. You have to write. To me, it was the equivlanet of someone reading about the art of piano playing instead of simply practicing. Perhaps if they read one hundred different books about technique and composition, they would instantly morph into a concert pianist, right?

But then of course, as soon as I declare this new self-important verdict to myself (I was 19 and very into independent thought), along comes something like WRITING DOWN THE BONES.

As soon as I read the first chapter, it became my writer's protein, the hydrogen peroxide that purges anything clogging my brain juice flow. It's a meditative, self-help guide that encourages you to grope around for all those brilliant thoughts and original ideas you have sticking somehwere in your soul.

Natalie Goldberg's voice is nothing short of delicious. She delights in the random and abstract, often stringing words like "yellow cake", "teacup", and "ferris wheel" in the same sentence. But most of all, her passion for writing is infectious. I guarantee you won't go further than ten pages before your hand is itching, nay, convulsing to write.

Each chapter is a chocolatey morsel of wisdom (yes, now I have compared this book to both chocolate and protein), a pithy motivational speech to get you pumped for whatever "spontaneous" writing session you plan to have burst out of you that day. But what makes WRITING DOWN THE BONES really stand supreme is Goldberg's portrait of a writer. She is, what I have always pictured, that penniless artist smoking her cigarette at a cafe corner in Paris where she scribbles down entire novels by hand on napkins. Her aura is a kaleidoscope and her thoughts are Dahli paintings dripping down the brain. WRITING THE BONES are her musings in blog form, as well as her call for all writers to abandon the "typewriter" (this was written before Microsoft 2007 and Surgeon General's Warnings) and embrace the inspirational bustlings of the cafe and bistro.

So apparently, we all have a literary masterpiece inside us, we just need to clear our schedules to sit at a diner all day scribbling in a notebook in order for it all to come spurting out our ears, kneecaps, teeth, and fingertips and plop in splatters across the blank page!

I knew there was an easy way :)


1. Keep your hand moving. (Don't pause to reread the line you have just written. That's stalling and trying to get control of what you're saying.)

2. Don't cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn't mean to write, leave it.)

3. Lose control.

4. Don't think. Don't get logical.

5. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy)

These are the rules. It is important to adhere to them because the aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place the energy is unobstructed by social politeness and internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel. It's a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind. Explore the rugged edge of thought. Like grating a carrot, give the paper the colorful colseslaw of your consciousness. (pages 8-9)

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