Skip to main content

Enlightened by Natalie Goldberg

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).

Telling My Story: How to Work Through Painful Feelings While Writing a Memoir

Telling My Story: How to Work Through Painful Feelings While Writing a Memoir

When revisiting your past means unearthing painful memories, it’s important to find solitude somewhere. Here, author Laura L. Engel discusses how to work through painful feelings while writing a memoir.

Podcasting Tips | Brendan O'Meara

The Writer’s Guide to Being a Great Podcast Guest

More writers than ever are appearing on or even hosting podcasts related to their writing. Host of the "Creative Nonfiction Podcast" Brendan O'Meara shares how to make it an enjoyable and successful experience.

T.M. Blanchet: On Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back

T.M. Blanchet: On Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back

Author T.M. Blanchet discusses the unforeseen element of surprise in publishing her debut YA fantasy, Herrick’s End.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 608

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a mom poem.

How I Went From No Book to Book Deal in Under a Year

How I Went From No Book to Book Deal in Under a Year

From picking up a reading habit to navigating daily word counts, award-winning journalist Carley Fortune shares how she went from no book to a book deal in less than a year.

Stay Thirsty, My Friends: On Freeing Writing From the Weight of Perfection

Stay Thirsty, My Friends: On Freeing Writing From the Weight of Perfection

Internationally bestselling author Sarah McCoy reclaims the necessary messiness that comes with the writing process and discusses why writers strive for perfection when perfection doesn’t exist.

Guardian

Guardian

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is guardian of an unnatural lake.

Amy Lea: On People-Watching Inspiring Romance

Amy Lea: On People-Watching Inspiring Romance

Author and bureaucrat Amy Lea discusses writing meet-cutes and meet-not-so-cutes in her debut romantic comedy novel, Set On You.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Englyn Penfyr

The WD Poetic Form Challenge is your opportunity to write and share a poem (the englyn penfyr this time around) for a chance to get published in the Poetic Asides column in Writer's Digest. Deadline: June 30, 2022.