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April 30, 2007

Writing and Healing Idea #35: My Favorite Piece of Writing Advice from Natalie Goldberg

In her book, Writing Down the Bones (published in 1986), Natalie Goldberg includes a wonderfully direct piece about how hard it is to get the conditions just right for work to flow. What she says here is true of writing, and it can be true of healing, and it can be true, I suppose, of any serious work. And sometimes, she suggests, the antidote may simply be to acknowledge this—that the conditions are not perfect, never perfect, that the world is filled with competing demands and distractions.

So----her advice:

Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can’t find his shoes, your car won’t start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams. There is the threat of a nuclear holocaust, there is apartheid in South Africa, it is twenty degrees below zero outside, your nose itches, and you don’t have even three plates that match to serve dinner on. Your feet are swollen, you need to make a dentist appointment, the dog needs to be let out, you have to defrost the chicken and make a phone call to your cousin in Boston, you’re worried about your mother’s glaucoma, you forgot to put film in the camera, Safeway has a sale on solid white tuna, you are waiting for a job offer, you just bought a computer and you have to unpack it. You have to start eating sprouts and stop eating doughnuts, you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.

Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.

There it is. Just write. For ten minutes or fifteen minutes or twenty minutes. About anything at all. About, if you like, the dog that needs to be let out, that solid white tuna on sale, your mother’s glaucoma. . .

In the teeth of resistance, make one definitive act. Just write.