If you’re in need of some inspiration for writing your story, this is the book you need to get. You can’t have my copy though because it’s riddled with notes, from pieces underlined to exclamations of joy. From the very start I felt a connection with the author, like a fantasy story where the book knows whose hands it needs to be in and finds its way there.
It’s been a month since I finished reading it and as I flipped through the pages looking for a good quote to riff off of, I realized that the magic I felt while reading it had already begun to fade from my memory. How can that be?! I remember thinking that I should go back and do many of the “Try this!” sections of the book, but never did. I had begun to incorporate them into my daily writing routine. And then life, I suppose.
No worries though. I plan on keeping this one out on my desk, not hidden in the bookshelf, to flip through when I need encouragement and inspiration.
The following are a few of my favorite quotes and some words of my own in response.
“Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water; we don’t drink a glass once and never have to drink one again. Over and over, we begin. This is good. This is kindness. We don’t forget our roots.”
As the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Writing, like most of life, is a long series of restarts. Each time through, if we’re paying attention, we learn something new and build on it. It’s a slow spiral up and then then we die. Hopefully we get the chance to share what we’ve learned with others before we go.
“When you write a memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.”
I have found this to be especially true when I was writing the memoir of my arrest, among other stories. It’s like I’m there, reliving it all in my mind. It hurt and it was terrifying at time, but the wonderous thing is that, as I write, I’m separate from the event while I’m reliving it. This time I get the chance to slow down and speed up the moment. That’s when I get to process and reflect on it, makes sense of it or choose to let it be. Then the pain of reliving it has a meaning and purpose.
“Katagiri Roshi said in his book Returning to Silence (Shambhala, 1988) that it is not important whether a spiritual teacher has reached the peak or not; what is important is how he has digested the truth he has experienced and how much this truth is manifested in the teacher’s life moment by moment. This is true in writing, too.”
And now I need THAT book (clicks over to Thriftbooks and adds it to the wishlist). The feeling behind imposter syndrome is just this. We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to be completely with it and composed. We only need to have the beginnings of knowing ourselves and the drive and courage to be open and honest. We’re not leaders or gurus. We’re just people sharing our experiences with others.
“It is the nature of a human being, like having a heartbeat and a breath. Thoughts really happen involuntarily. …the brain continues to have thoughts whether we will them or not.”
Oh, those pesky thoughts. Reminds me of how detestable the idea of a “thought crime” in Orwell’s 1984 is. Contrary to popular belief, thoughts, like feelings, are involuntary. Once we are aware of that, we can hold them and examine them to see if they are correct or useful. First we hold a thought out in the light, put our glasses on, then we can decide what we want to do with it.
“Writing is elemental. Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water. Water is in your blood. You can’t go without it.”
I’ve tried giving this up, really. Even when I’m at my lowest, laying on the floor in my livingroom, crying to my husband that “No one in the whole world is reading this! And even if there is, they are probably only reading it as an example of mediocrity!” I still get up the next day and start typing…or scribbling in my notebook. I’ll set it aside for a few days, but then I get hungry and begin again. I have to breathe.
“Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?”
It’s lines like this that made me smile. I’m not alone. I just start typing and sometimes she comes out to play.
“I am my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostoyevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.”
If you sat with me over a cup of coffee, you’d hear the same words you read here. Maybe if you heard me talking with people at a party, you’d recognize me.
“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”
I’m not a “let it go and see what happens” kind of girl, but the older I get, the more I allow it, and the more I wish I had started earlier.
“My writing self is braver than the rest of me. I follower her, trust her, but I know my human self, the part of me that is not a warrior of truth and words, lags behind me.”
Have you ever been in a conversation and then hours afterwards thought, “Dammit! I wish I had thought of that to say!”? That is her. She hides from view, taking notes, thinking of all the witty, clever, and brilliant things to say, but she’s too shy to make herself known face to face. She’ll save those words for later and write them instead. She also comes out of hiding when triggered to respond to social media posts and the sincerely regrets she has fingers to type with.
“You’ll lose your reader if you are vague, not clear, and not present. We love details, personal connections, stories.”
You can probably tell when I’m hiding behind euphemisms and creating characters to say what I want to say. There are things I want to reveal, pieces of me that I’d love to set free, but fear gets in the way. Who will it hurt if I do? What if I’m ridiculed for my beliefs? What if I’m wrong?! Our need to get along and fit in is strong, but we can be stronger..
“We are great warriors facing the barriers of truth. We are digesting experience for society.”
That’s the beauty of creative nonfiction. For what it’s worth, we write our experience so that everyone around us can share in it. It’s why I enjoy reading it, as well. Your story is now part of my experience.
“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.
Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.
All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil.”
The perfect ending. An excuse for why I spend just about every morning reading and writing, looking out the window, going for a walk, quietly cleaning my house. I’ve only begun to completely relax into it, to let it roll by while I watch. Little by little, I’ve realized that if I run from one thing to the next, if I fill up my days with activities, I miss the joy of life.
And there it is. There was so much more in this little book, but I’ve already shared too much. If you’d like to read my first thoughts on this book, you can find them at my original post, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.