Enlightened by Natalie Goldberg

Should we let go of the idea of publishing what we write when we”re writing it? What would you say to someone who wants so badly to publish an article or a book?
What I tell my students is, for at least two years, what you should just do is what I call writing practice. Just do timed writing with nowhere to go. Because during that time you”ll begin to have a relationship with your mind. And your mind is your most potent writing tool. And during that writing you begin to see who you really are, what your real obsessions are, what carries real energy. It takes a long time and a lot of perseverance. So I think the urge has to come from a deep root, and not just an idea that you want to write a book or be famous. It has to come from a deeper place.

When I write now, I always have to give myself permission to completely fail. If I”m trying to live up to something, usually I”m frozen. So that idea of completely failing means, this might not get published. I have to let go of all that and write from my deepest place.

Writing is a very powerful tool. It works on every level. So to get frozen on the idea of publishing is to really miss out on the whole meat of writing. It”s like being thrown the already chewed-over piece of bone. Go deeper. Look at why you want to publish, what”s the root of it? You might find that it”s some story you really want to tell. Dive into that story and give it you whole life, you whole body and then later worry about publishing or not.

I wonder if there”s a confusion between the confirmation of self that simply happens by the act of writing vs. the confirmation of self that is perceived from publishing.
Yes. And I”ve got a secret. The confirmation of actually writing is much deeper and truer than the publishing. The publishing is always a tiny bit disappointing. You can never truly meet your deep desire to connect with yourself.

Oh no! Why?
Because it”s just words on a page, it”s already passed. But the act of actually physically writing and connecting with yourself right here and now is glorious.

This article originally appeared in the August 2000 issue of Personal Journaling.

Natalie Goldberg is the author of the writing-inspiration classics Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala) and Wild Mind, plus the meditative Long Quiet Highway and Living Color, a book about her experience as a painter. She has also written a novel, Banana Rose. Goldberg is now studying ot become a Zen teacher, and has just published her sixth book, Thunder and Lightning (all Bantam Books).

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