It’s About Time for Writing

I’m dipping back into Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. I’ve had my copy for years (c. 1986 for my copy), don’t think I’ve yet read it cover‑to‑cover, but have made many notes on chapters/sections in the past, even adding quotes to hers, or jotting in notes of my own about a “new” writing idea or project. This time, I’m determined to read every single word.

Because of the book’s “age,” I did have to laugh when she talked about a writer’s equipment: pens, pencils, felt tips, fun notebooks, etc. First, I got a kick out of her buying cartoony notebooks on the back‑to‑school sales. Then she talked about some people directly typing out their thoughts, and that, no matter how you do it, writing is a very physical exercise, so the typing, which comes out in “block, black letters” may show you a different aspect of yourself. She touted handwriting as more connected to the “movement of the heart,” and I can even understand that. But when she said, “I have not worked very much with a computer, but I can imagine using a Macintosh . . . keyboard . . . on my lap . . . closing my eyes and just typing away. The computer automatically returns the carriage. The device is called ‘wrap‑around . . .” I won’t go on, but I was laughing my head off. I’m guessing she probably became a “convert” at some point.

But her advice, encouragement and no‑nonsense attitude about “practice writing” is GOLD. (Of course; it’s GOLDberg after all!) I used to have my high school students do this. I called it Qwik Write. And my rules were the same as hers:

  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. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.*)
  4. Lose control.
  5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
  6. 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.)**

* I didn’t have the last part of this rule about lines and margins. I wish I HAD given them that one too.

** I didn’t block subjects that came up, but I also didn’t think to tell them how much ENERGY that kind of writing might embody. Wish I’d told them that too!

I’m coupling the Goldberg book with re‑reading (and writing accordingly) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. They are good companion pieces. Moreover, Cameron, in her list of books for “further study”, included Goldberg’s and a few others I happened to own already, so I pulled out M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and the only fiction piece Cameron listed: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (and I’m an absolute nut for all things Arthurian.) I’m working through these four books on a 12‑week venture (both Cameron’s and Peck’s are perfectly set up for completing in 12 weeks, the other two, it’s just a matter of setting daily number‑of‑pages goals.) I’ve added one other, on an “As‑I‑Have‑Time basis, but maybe it will GIVE me the extra time: Timeshifting by Stephan Rechtschaffen, M. D. ‑ a fascinating look at how we can shift and shape our perception of time to our advantage.

That’s MY 12‑Week‑Goal (in addition to continuing work on my current WIP). What do you want to accomplish in the next 12 weeks? Month? Week? Day?