Published by Atria Books
Publication date: March 19th 2013
Thus, sitting, walking, writing, are all moments of practice. The quietest, deepest sits I’ve experienced have included writing. The writing helps to empty and settle the mind. We then can sink into a quiet pool, into silence, out of which all of those tumultuous thoughts were created in the first place.
This is from the introduction of Natalie Goldberg’s new book The True Secret of Writing and when there’s this much meat before page one you know you’re in for a meal of epic proportions. Goldberg is a painter and a writer of both poetry and prose. She is a long-time student of Zen Buddhism and in the last decade has combined this practice of sitting and silence with writing in retreats held for students of all ages in Taos, New Mexico. She has guided a multitude of students into a writing practice but is the first to note that
Writing is not just for someone who wants to write the great American novel.
The guidance in The True Secret of Writing, while extraordinarily useful to people who do want to express their creativity through writing, will also resonate for anyone looking for a more mindful life. Chapters range from the basics of retreat life, to student responses and philosophical musings. Goldberg distills the essence of the intensives into their purest form and presents a myriad of options to both start and maintain a writing practice, something she acknowledges to be as vital as her Zen practice for keeping the creative connection in each person alive. However, much of the book goes beyond writing and works within the constructs of everyday life with discussion on choices, being in the moment and even daily structure.
The idea of structure is to eventually learn to internalize it, so that you can make the most of your day, not to adhere to it rigidly. To learn to balance activity and a time to rest, to receive. Constant doing creates burnout with no space even to know what you want to write—or say.
Goldberg’s style is very down-to-earth and her no-nonsense manner applies even to herself and her own mind. Despite decades of dedicated Zen Buddhist practice, she finds herself judging a woman in a tea store, only to find that this same woman knows her and has taken her workshop twice. So while you might flinch at being told to “Shut up and write” know that it is no different than what she tells herself. The balance of tough love with acceptance makes The True Secret of Writing a book that nurtures and inspires on many levels. For anyone who does express their creativity through writing it is a special book, one that will be much used and loved, certain to be replaced at some point because it has been read so often.
I’ve also noticed that no matter how much my outward life seems to improve—a new house, a new girlfriend, a new book contract—I still have the same amount of inner torture, the same twisted agonies…Let go, I whisper to myself.
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