Saturday, September 19, 2009

"What is love anyway, and sorrow, and light?"

~ Natalie Goldberg

At my dad's suggestion, I've started reading "Long Quiet Highway," by Natalie Goldberg. She writes about her childhood, about becoming a writer, and about Zen. I'm especially drawn to her voice, the way each sentence has purpose and flows to the next:

Writing became the tool I used to digest my life and to understand, finally, the grace, the gratitude I could feel, not because everything was hunky-dory, but because we can use everything we are. Actually we have no choice. We can't use what someone else had--a great teacher, a terrific childhood. That is outside ourselves. And we can't avoid an inch of our own experience; if we do it causes a blur, a bleep, a puffy unreality. Our job is to wake up to everything, because if we slow down enough, we see we are everything.

Goldberg balances grand statements about writing and life with stories about teachers (her favorite was Mr. Clemente, from whom she took English all four years of high school, and who never knew she cared), family, and others.

I love books about writing, writers on writing--not writers on craft: not style, dialogue, or characterization--but the process and struggle that comes with writing and being a writer. She stresses the importance of practice and discipline, of not giving in to that voice that says, "I'm tired" or "I'm hungry" or "I'm sick." Face that blank page, stare it down, and cover it with my words.

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