The road to good writing does not proceed in a straight line.
In fact, the wisdom of Natalie Goldberg says much of our best writing comes by sitting still and doing absolutely nothing, or taking a slow walk:
Sit, walk, write . . .
That is the essence of this writing companion: It is a book to coax the writer into spending more time thinking and writing. Writing comes from within, so no doubt a calm mind can yield better and stronger writing than a distracted or hurried mind.
Ms. Goldberg has been a friend to writers since her first bestselling book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, which sold 1.5 million copies.
With over a dozen titles on the market, she here takes a different tone. In The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, Ms. Goldberg looks inward. She reflects on the profound lessons she’s learned from writing. Looking back at her long career, teaching us to slow down and be better writers, she doesn’t disappoint.
Her companionable voice and writing style will win over even the most frustrated wannabe writer.
The True Secret of Writing is geared to writers at all levels. It weaves the author’s experiences at writing retreats and Zen practice, allowing writing to empty and settle the mind, opening it to an inner stillness.
Along the way, the reader is reminded that once we are able to get past self-judgment, true r words will likely appear on the page. First-person stories and accounts of her coaching with writers reveal the best ways to reach the true r place in which great writing flourishes.
The self-understanding and focus we draw from this retreat process gives us tools to learn to listen as we write, to become unblocked, and to pay attention as we work, becoming more productive.
Ms. Goldberg blends the “practice” of sitting in meditation with writing, creating a writing practice based on her long held mandate in workshops to “keep your hand moving.”
Of practice, Ms. Goldberg writes: “. . . That’s ultimately what practice is: arriving at the front-and back door—of yourself. You set up to do something consistently over a long period of time, and simply watch what happens with no idea of good or bad, gain or loss. No applause and no criticism.”
While writing is the book’s primary focus, several chapters are devoted to discussing zendo retreats and mindfulness techniques.
Even a devoted reader/writer with a shelf full of how-to-write books will benefit from the intimate discussion and practical lessons in The True Secret of Writing and can perhaps finally understand where writing comes from and how to dig deep to access it.
Using her techniques, such as sitting in silent open mind, walking anchored to the earth, and writing without criticism, Ms. Goldberg pushes the reader past fear and doubt into a glorious empowerment, making us better able to get the words on the page. Along the way, we also learn more about our place in the world, and how our writing can have a long-lasting impact on others.