A young lady asked Natalie Goldberg, “What do I do? I lost all my journals and now I feel part of me is irretrievably gone.”
Natalie sympathized, she herself had never recovered a dozen paintings she created and lost during a trip to Paris. But remember, Goldberg is a student of Zen, non-attachment. Her response was to shrug and suggest that it was really okay that the journals were gone. “You aren’t going to ever read them anyway. “ Natalie said.
That single answer, as harsh as it sounds, was the permission I needed to dump years of journals: specifically 1970 − 1999. I was finally able to ask if I really, ever, wanted to revisit Junior High. Should I continue to lug the the past from house to house, ever sealed, never read?
As I chucked hundreds of pages into the recycling bin, Goldberg’s True Secret To Writing emerged again. The True Secret it writing is that it really is just about the process. Writing is its own best means – not to an end, but rather to your mind, your next story, your soul.
I don’t meditate for very long (about a minute, I call it speed meditation). When I walk, I walk fast. But writing every day? I’ve been practicing that forever.
In this context, what is produced is immaterial. Anything decent is lifted from those pages of beginner words, wild ideas and complaints about the weather and transferred into another, more permanent, workable file. The process work is not revisited.
I rescued 5 poems from the 70’s that I thought I could rework in honor of National Poetry Month. And that was all.
Some writers feel that every word they put to paper is great, deathless prose, but not me. Everyday writing, journal writing, is about the process, it’s practice writing. And we all need to practice so when it is time to perform: we’re flawless.
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