Natalie Goldberg and the Art of Being Present

Natalie Goldberg Writing Down the BonesI love this period of time. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard. Since June of 2015, I’ve been pushing out a new project. It’s as unpredictable as the news of this year, and that’s no exaggeration.

To recap, I dropped out of my extracurricular life activities in the middle of 2015. I’ve already mentioned the reorganization process from last summer. As I was doing that, I also began writing a series of essays. They came out, one after another. I allowed myself maximum freedom – no outline or expectation. Just be present and write. It has turned out to be the raw material for a new project. After all the energy has been exhausted, I will edit and shape this material. Right now, the important thing is to be present and write.

Be Present and Write. I learned that through Jack Kerouac. And you know how one writer leads you to another? That’s how I found Natalie Goldberg. I was living in San Francisco in my 20s. I don’t remember where I bought her books, “Writing Down the Bones” and “Wild Mind.” It is quite possible I bought them at City Lights. I’m not sure. Both books were an immense help. It was difficult to write after the breakdown. Plus blending spirituality and writing was my truth as well.

I thought of Natalie Goldberg recently. There are only a handful of writers whose work has stuck in my brain for decades. I haven’t written about how much her work has meant to me. When I’ve talked about things like that in the past, I’ve gotten dissertations in response lecturing me about various aspects of a writer’s work. Those kinds of responses steal the connection a writer has with a reader. The work meant something to me, something I’ve carried for many years. That response is mine; it’s personal. To invalidate such a response with a “you don’t know what you’re talking about but I do so here let me enlighten you because you are a blazing idiot” is terrible. So often those discussions come from ego rather than heart.

I don’t mind sharing among strangers, friends or colleagues, but it has to be respectful and equal. We can all learn from personal responses; however, the minute someone plays expert, the connection is lost. It used to happen so much in theater. That’s why I’m sensitive to it now.

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