On Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones

Natalie is so much a part of me she even showed up in my manuscript At the Hour of the Morning Drink. When her voice begins to shine through in my writing it isn’t because I’m sitting with her books in my hand and typing up phrases, it’s because her words have done exactly what she said the words of my favourite writers should do; they have been absorbed into a deeper part of my consciousness.

Natalie has been my greatest teacher for many years – without her I might be typing this blog post but I’d have arrived via a quite different route.

Thanks to her I discovered how to trust everything I had been doing. I’d been on the right track all along! I’d been composting, working with my obsessions, going for the jugular. Practising my craft.

I knew it wasn’t a bad thing to write pages and pages of words. I knew in my belly that somehow I would figure out what to do with them. Now it was writing practise – I was doing the daily exercise that would one day make me a strong writer.

I knew I needed to be observant but Nat put down on the page concrete ways to do this. Sit in cafes and write about the dried blob of barbecue sauce on the menu, the dry grey décor, the little blond boy at the table opposite, whose sleeves are too short.

She nodded – yes, it’s okay to write what’s under the surface. The stuff that’s not nice.

My writing began to extend. Instead of just writing about LL (lost love) over and over, I wrote about my step-father, my brother, my best friend. I wrote about Deauville and Madeira and Cornwall and London. I began to see my passions in black and white – the themes that would separate me from other writers.

I could write about Nat for hours. How I’d like to play word games with her, sit in cafes and write and write, walk the warm evening streets of Taos with her. Share chocolate chip cookies.

So don’t be surprised when she shows up in my writing. She’s there along with my other loves as I strive to be more and more myself.

Who shows up in your writing and what do they say?


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