Writing Mantra: Sit, Walk, Write
Looking for the true secret to writing rich, compelling, poetry and prose? Here it is: There is none. And that, as Natalie Goldberg sees it, is the whole point.
In her introduction to The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Writing, Goldberg makes clear that she has no interest in “creating an easy American hit.” On that count, she succeeds: her latest book is far from a catalogue of quick fixes and surefire formulas.
This is not a how-to manual.
Rather, it is a distillation of anecdotes from Goldberg’s experience leading Zen-inspired writing and life workshops for more than a decade.
Unfortunately, Goldberg’s back-to-the-basics approach offers little usable guidance for aspiring writers. A central component of the workshops is their group format; students spend much of the retreat in silence, but it is a communal silence.
The book rarely outlines ways for translating sketches of the workshops into an everyday, individual writing practice.
The closest Goldberg comes to giving practical, nuts and bolts advice is in her deceptively simple mantra: sit, walk, write. This, she says, is as near to a “true secret” of writing as one can get: simply write.
Sit still, meditate, walk slowly, put pen to paper.
While such an intuitive slant is appealing—something of an artistic analogue to the slow food movement—practical-minded readers may find that the book offers too much what and not enough how.
Reading The True Secret was like cherishing each slow, measured sip of tea: pleasurable and soothing in its own right, but unlikely to stoke the fires of inspiration. Goldberg’s text is one that must be appreciated as an end in itself, rather than a means to reaching another goal.
Note: elephantjournal.com received The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language for free, in return for a guarantee that we would review said offering. That said, we say what we want—good and bad, happy and sad.
Margret Ann Crone is a pint-sized Viking bred on the black-sanded beaches of southern Iceland. Nowadays you can spot her writing, saluting the sun, and teaching in NYC.
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