The true secret of writing

I’m reading a book by Natalie Goldberg called “The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language.” I don’t know when I bought it; or perhaps I was gifted it because I don’t recall a purchase.

To be completely honest, I started reading it as an excuse to not write myself. (It’s what I do.) I’m not very far into it, but it is a lot of what Natalie has written about before in her other books: her writing practice and her Zen practice. But in this she combines them to enhance both.

“Sit. Walk. Write. That’s the true secret.” — Natalie Goldberg

Here is the part I wanted to put down on this page. Natalie tells her students to think about their practice as something other than “practice makes perfect.“ (Who hasn’t been told this in their lives?)

She says “it’s something you choose to do on a regular 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.” [page 41]

Natalie goes on: “(T)his continual practice expresses your true determination, signals to your unconscious, to your deep resistance that you mean business. (And then your resistance roars louder and you roar back.)

“Over time, practice kicks in that strong motor, the deep impersonal life force within you. It reinforces and supports your yes to life for no reason — not because you were good or bad or worthy or kind or successful, but because, like a blade of grass or thunder or a cloud, you are alive.”

“Practice awakens that force in us. but not without being challenged, and we have to do it in spite of logic, the quirks in our mind, our heavy opposition. What practice builds in us is a true confidence that can’t be derived from outward signs of success — fame, money, beauty. This confidence comes from the fact that you show up over and over again. That you do what you say you were going to do. That you commit to a practice, one that is possible given your life and maybe with a few missed times, a few times you mess up, you stay in the driver’s seat.” [page 42]

I love the whole idea of practice in this way, to do it as a commitment to oneself, not with expectations or the idea of reaching perfection, or comparison with someone else; but simply to show up with curiosity, to see what happens, every time. And also without judgment if I miss a session, to not be “tossed away” by thinking I have failed, but rather keep returning to the practice again and again. The focus is on this moment, paying attention to the now, not with an eye to getting somewhere else but here.

That appeals to me as someone who is an overachiever, who rarely (OK, never) is satisfied with “good enough” and what can be accomplished in the here and now, who beats themselves up over perceived failure, and I cast a wide net on that one.

So today, on this rainy Saturday, I will engage in writing practice, and I will practice self compassion and self forgiveness as I do it.

3 Replies to “The true secret of writing”

  1. Merwegon Says: Practice is practice. Keep it simple. Try Natalie’s recipe. Practice writing. Writing discipline development is hard enough without overlaying other spiritual work. Anyway, it’s unnecessary. As you practice writing in this vein to strengthen your spirit, you will automatically allow your self to see that forgiveness is unnecessary. That there was never anything to forgive in the first place. You will also automatically allow your self to see that universal compassion is flowing through you with every breath you take.


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