Reflections on The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, by Natalie Goldberg

The True Secret of WritingThe True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language
by Natalie Goldberg
Atria Books 
236 pages 

“We have this life. We live it day by day, It passes quickly. Sometimes not quickly enough – we get despondent, sullen, downcast. Those are good words. In those slow moments something might appear – a chance to fall through our blistering fast-paced lives to the other side, where we can turn around and view ourselves, take a curious interest. Underneath everything we long to know ourselves. We wouldn’t know it though by the way we act – chugging down another whiskey, not listening to our daughter at breakfast, going sixty in a twenty zone. Reaching to get away; longing to come home.

In writing, in sitting, in slow walking, a flash, a moment appears when we fall through and what we are fighting, running from, struggling with becomes open, luminous – or, even better, not a problem, just what it is.

Look for those small openings.”  (pg. 23)

I was introduced to Natalie Goldberg‘s Writing Down the Bones in a workshop I once took with the wonderful Janet Ruth Falon at the University of Pennsylvania. There, as in subsequent workshops I’ve taken, I learned about the concept of “ten minute pages,” where one writes nonstop for ten minutes at a time. The purpose is to free your mind.

At times, I’ve lost sight of this idea over the years, but it works. Really. I think I need to revisit it more often – especially when my writer’s block seems to get the better of me.

Something else I loved, from the chapter “Loving a Place,” where Goldberg writes about the bitter cold of Minneapolis, where she once lived, and North Dakota:

“For most of us, ‘awake’ isn’t even a quality we look for. We are busy with earning a living, getting good grades, anticipating spring break. Awake is another country; yet it’s our job to recognize that country, to realize love of place can be a beginning point, a reflecting back, a map of our longing and hope.” (pg. 113)

Look for the small openings. Stay awake. Words to live by as we begin November, this month of writing wildly, and all the year through.


Thanks for sharing this post!