I am a long time fan of Natalie Goldberg. But I fear I have outgrown her. As I review my favorite of her books Wild Mind, I realize that focusing on drinking a glass of water, or focusing on my Zen breathing is not only tedious, it doesn’t help my work at all.
One of the things I admire most about Natalie is she not afraid to change. From her complete embrace of Zen practice in Writing Down the Bones to the discovery that her Zen instructor was not all she thought him to be, in The Great Failure, she writes with truth and clarity. But I actually have advanced beyond her advice.
It is possible to out grow our Gurus. We learn everything we can, then move onto to another person, another message or a new author who is just a few steps ahead of us in enlightenment or skill. And we follow her for a few years of great inspiration.
How do you know you’ve moved on? Pull out your favorite books and read those original pieces that encouraged you to try writing or trapeze flying or tax accounting. Is the advice still relevant? If so, great, read it again and get a jolt of your original mojo. If the advice and language seems dated, then you know you’ve moved on, congratulations on your growth!
I am still a fan of Goldberg’s. What now inspires me is not her advice for writing practice but her complete willingness to live out loud and share her wild mind, great failures and all, with the rest of us.
That’s a worthy goal right there.