Natalie Goldberg: "One of the first things I encourage my writing students to do is to lose control."

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“Write what you know,” right? Sometimes. But not always, according to writing guru Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind).

Here’s the latest from Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series (the quote-worthy quips that branded themselves in my mind when we were creating these magazines throughout the year). A themed writing prompt will follow in a moment: Happy Halloween. Lose control.

No. 19: No Control

“When you write what you know, you stay in control. One of the first things I encourage my writing students to do is to lose control—say what they want to say, break structure. I often assign them to write about topics like, “what I’m not thinking of,” and “what I don’t remember.” Assignments like these lead to the underbelly, to the dark, rich, hidden life of your wild mind. … A writer’s job is to give the reader a larger vision of the world. We need to move into the mind of someone in the Congo, Portugal, Brazil, feel into the life of grass and bees, conjure up a horse’s day. All things are speaking. They have different languages; maybe a rock completes the pronunciation of only one syllable every two years. Our job as writers is to listen, to come home to the four corners of the earth. Be curious: Who is that woman buying five lemons and two peaches at the grocery counter? What does her purse contain? And what does she dream at night? Only you, the writer, care. Don’t let her disappear out in the parking lot and into oblivion.”
—Natalie Goldberg, “The Writer’s Rulebook,” by Jessica Strawser and Zac, September 2010 (click here to check the rest of the issue out)


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