These rules work for hang gliding, tennis, sex – oh, and writing….

I can see you.

The spray can of heavy duty industrial oven cleaner parked on the kitchen floor is a dead give away. Peel off those rubber gloves, stop pretending that your family will drop dead of food poisoning tonight if you don’t clean those charred meal residues insulating the inside of the oven right away. Follow me. Yes, just as I thought. The study door is ajar. I can see the laptop screen from here. Closer….yes, that’s it. Don’t die of embarrassment, it won’t help. A new document  is open on screen. A title?

(NB – provisional ) Of authorship and toads….

" Of authorship and toads...."

And ?  I suspected this. One paragraph indentation, and the word  “The”…...can that really be all ? Oh. There’s a new line.

“ F— this, I might as well be cleaning the oven!!!!”

I have two words to say to you. Pay attention, they really will help, I promise:

Natalie Goldberg.

A few months ago, I visited Glasgow Buddhist Centre in search of a meditation stool. Yes, you’ve guessed, I had an article which had to be in the post by 5pm. I was distracted from the article by the stool, then distracted from the stool by Natalie Goldberg. Her bookWild Mind : Living the Writer’s Life drew me like a lure. What a wonderful writer! What an inspiring book! Did the article get to the postbox? I’m not telling you.

Natalie Goldberg is an American writer  and creative writing teacher. She is sharp, witty, compassionate, lateral….and tough. She has bottom lines and is not afraid to state them. She has rules. My guess is, if you follow these rules on a regular basis, you’ll rarely be distracted by oven cleaning or any other form of housework ever again.

She is fanatical about writing practice. “ If you learn writing practice well, it is a good foundation for all other writing.” We need to do it as regularly as possible, she says.

“ When you sit down to write, whether it’s for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don’t stop. If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don’t budge. You’ll go out writing.”

In essence, writing practice is a technique for cracking open the confining grip of our conscious, rational mind – and flying free into the big blue sky of what Goldberg calls “ wild mind”.

Here, briefly, are Natalie’s rules:

(She also thinks they mostly work for hang gliding, tennis and sex.)

1. Keep your hand moving. If you stop your hand, you stop the creator’s flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.

2. Lose control. Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate. Just go for it.

3. Be specific. Don’t write flower, write narcissus.

4. Don’t think. Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.

5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.

6. You are free to write the worst junk in America ( or in your case, could be anywhere in the world ! )

7. Go for the jugular. Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

There you are. Begin writing practice today. Next step, buy Goldberg’s books on the writers’ craft. They are a wonderful investment. I’m doing well with my writing practice, by the way. I’ve bought two new notebooks. Still can’t decide which one to start….

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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4 responses to “These rules work for hang gliding, tennis, sex – oh, and writing….

  1. I love this! I do need to tend to some household chores, for sure – but her point no doubt holds for that, too. If I were to say, “I’m going to devote this next hour to the house, and nothing is going to stop me”, I’d have less nagging at my mind and attention when I sit down to write.

    As for her rules – I’ve become very good at a abiding by a couple of them. I’m very good at specificity – and I’m aware of thinking about it as I write. And while I don’t go for the jugular, precisely, I’m becoming far more willing to speak my mind, as when I called Beyonce and Jay-Z both naive and stupid in my last post. When I started, I never would have done that. I would have thought, “that might be offensive to some”. What I’ve learned is that inoffensive generally means boring.

    I believe I’m going to make some changes in my routine, and put an hour of writing first every morning, before I begin with the blogs. We’ll see how it goes!

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    • Never thought the day would ever come when something I wrote inspired someone towards housework!Natalie Goldberg and I are indeed a formidably domesticity-inspiring combination, it seems …..and since I’m going through a lackadaisical phase of blog and general writing-fatigue, I applaud your new morning resolution re writing. Good luck with it.

      I have just given a young friend – who may by now have read this post – a writer’s starter pack of a Natalie Goldberg book, a large elasticated black folder with half a dozen compartments, a pack of pencils ( Faber Castell – my favourites) and a pack of red, blue and black pens, a small notebook for his back pocket, a medium notebook for sitting in cafes, and a beautiful purple/gold writer’s journal whose cover is a facsimile page from one of Edgar Allan Poes’s draft short stories. If that doesn’t get him going, nothing will….

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      • Well, yes. But don’t forget. The first poem I wrote,the one that inspired the title of my blog, was begun on the back of a piece of used sandpaper….!

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  2. Totally take your point. I once wrote some notes, for what became a long piece of writing, with a borrowed biro inside my arm when I didn’t have a notebook….

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