The True Secret of Writing (and Reading and Sharing)

In the Writing Our Own History course, I share some gleanings from my reading. For example, the following passages are from Natalie Goldberg’s book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language. Maybe one of them will ring true to your experience.

Our lives are not linear.

Silence can be the door to listening, which is one of the great cornerstones to writing.

My job has been to spread the writing gospel.

Writing comes from your true life, not from being polite, cautious, censored.

Hearing someone else’s tribulations encourages you to read yours, too. A solidarity forms.

Why do people come to writing classes? They want to write, want connections, spiritual longing drives them, urge for meaning. Yearning manifests through writing.

I consider Allen Ginsberg the grandfather of the writing practice lineage.

It’s something you choose to do on a regualr basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it. You show up whether you want to or not.

What is really extreme in our society is talk, nonstop, all the time, to communicate, to cover up, divert, share, hide, lie, fill time, waste time, idly, languidly, incessantly. I do not think silence is holy. It’s another perspective, a way for our chatty society to stretch.

To write a novel takes a lot of committed energy over a long period of time. Those obsessions have that energy locked into them. To direct that energy toward a novel is a chance to transform an obsession, which diminishes your life, into a passion, something that enlarges your life.

I have them read books because I want our practice of awareness to meet the world. Literature tells us something real about our lives and reveals an aspect of awake, alive mind.

Make a list of things you want included in your writing. What angle can you approach them with?

When you practice, you stop causing trouble for everyone else. The trouble—the memories, the hurts, all of it—is now yours. You claim it; you are responsible. And you know what to do: Shut up and write.

The key is to be “engaged.” Pick something that matters to you—something you continually show up for has a chance. And even when you lost your way, you can come back. The returning over and over builds the spine of practice.

Friendship is one of China’s oldest art forms and Wang Wei cultivates it. Friendship is how he survived during his exiles from court life, the early death of his wife, of his mother. It is his consolation during seclusions in the mountains and during intrigue, disgrace, dismissal in civic life.

If you stay in relation to writing (rather than zoning out for six years) and you connect with writing friends, read, listen deeply, you will write what you want but most likely never the way you imagined it.

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