Friday, September 23, 2011

Wild Mind

I finished reading the book Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg, a week ago. It is a book of advice about writing, including exercises to "get the pen moving."

I still haven't returned it to the library. Why? Right now, I am in the middle of digesting it; after all, what's the point of taking in writing advice if you do not let it sink in?

Not to say that I'll take everything at face value. I do not agree with everything Goldberg says. At times, I do not like her tone (how arrogant, for a sophomore in high school to say such!).

But some passages strike me.
"And be brave. Let some of the good writing go. Don't worry. There'll be lots of it over time. You can't use all of it. Be generous and allow some of it to lie fallow. What a relief! We can write well and let it go. That's just as good as writing poorly and letting it go. Just let go."
It is a relief to think this way, that we do not need to hoard every golden sentence because there's plenty more where that came from. Being a natural packrat, I suspect it will take me a while to learn this lesson. But even now, with the message only half-taken, it is freeing.
"Yes, I'd forgotten that, too. That if you let go in your writing, you naturally go for the jugular over and over until you clean out unfinished business."
I do this more in my confidante (what others would call a journal) than in my stories, but my vignette-esque "Friendship is Not a Boat" was all about cleaning out unfinished business. Some parts of it seem cancerous, like they do not belong, and that is because I clumsily added them in. They fit for the conversation between Melusine and Adelaide, but it wasn't really them: it was me saying all the things I needed to say but still have not said.
"A helpful technique: right in the middle of saying nothing, right in the middle of a sentence, put a dash and write, 'What I really want to say is...' and go on writing. ... It's a device to help you connect with what is going on inside."
Allowing yourself to break through straight into what you "really want to say" is much better than trying to build a bridge of logic. It lets you teleport straight to the other side of the river.
"If you don't read aloud, the writing tends to fester like an infected wound in your notebook. I cannot say why, but the simple act of reading it aloud allows you to let go of it."
I hate reading aloud. But maybe I will read aloud my work when I am alone in the afternoons. Maybe my cat will listen.
"I said ..., 'I'm lonely and I suffer.'"
Simple and powerful and direct. In a book filled with writing advice, this is the line that resonates with me the most. I suspect it is true for everyone, often, but rarely admitted. This line made me decide that I like this book even though I cannot relate to sections of it. Anyone who says such a statement so baldly is worth listening to.

More quotes to come TuesdayWednesday. Which of these quotes do you dis/agree with the most?

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