Book Review: “The True Secret of Writing” by Natalie Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg is an inspiration to many writers, including myself. I have two of her books, Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind. They are go-to’s whenever I need a kick in the writing pants. 

I found The True Secret of Writing in a local library, not seeking it out. But it was there. I had to borrow it and read it. It’s kind of different from some of her other writing books. Goldberg takes readers on a journey through her year-long writing retreats in the early 2000’s. The appendix breaks down her plan for others to follow. Natalie also shares her encounters with her students and teachers who’ve inspired her. But as most writers who’ve read Goldberg and/or attended one of her retreats know, she uses the philosophies of Zen in her practices.

Natalie doesn’t list as much writing practices in this book, but there are some useful ones. One exercise is writing your observations in the same spot at the same time for one week. I certainly will try that if the stars align. Another is where writers write an eulogy of sorts. But instead of paragraphs, they’re written like poems. Short, choppy, and to the point. There are also some physical activities one can practice. One such practice is “slow walking,” where you really feel whatever surface you’re walking on, letting all things go. It’s liberating, in a way, which is what Goldberg strives for.

The True Spirit of Writing is one of Natalie’s more personal works. It’s not my favorite, but something I look to add to my collection of writing books. Natalie Goldberg, in my opinion, is one of the best writing teachers around. One day, I hope to meet her in person. Consider it something to do on my writing bucket list. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

In the Spirit of NaNoWriMo

Everyone is prepping for NaNo next month, which is approaching quickly. But to the angst of a lot of writers, I can’t see myself participating in it. I figure there are a lot of contributing factors for my hesistance. A fear of failure. Not making the time to write every day. Forgetting to write every day. Not having a goal–even one set by NaNo. Not having ideas for novels, though I could be using the next two weeks to come up with one. The list can go on and on if I really applied myself. At the same time, I could use that same energy to brainstorm ideas, compose character interviews, outline my story, and so on. I want to do something writing-related where I feel a sense of accomplishment without as much pressure. So, here’s what I’ve decided. 

For November, I want to finish the short stories I’ve started this year. By my count, I have about three stories that need completion. What to do with them once they’re done is another story. I know, it’s not much of a goal, but hear me out. There’s reasoning behind this endeavor. 

One, I have a bad habit of starting one thing, then jumping to something else. I try to multi-task with no success. Something gets neglected. The same can be said with my short stories. I’ll start a story, but the moment I don’t “feel” a story, I jump to something else. That’s a problem. I have scenes on my phone, story starters on my laptop and notebook. It’s exhausting keeping up with all of them.

And two, unlike most writers, I can’t complete a story in one sitting. And the reason why is because I want to edit while writing, and that slows everything down. It’s frustrating because the “editor” wants to nick-pick at every little word and detail. And I end up getting very little done. 

So how do I tackle this goal. Number one,  I have to set aside time to write. I have to look at my schedule and say to myself—and others—that I’m going to write at this time on this day. Two, I have to figure out which story will be easiest to complete with the time given. I have to look at my draft books and phone and see where I’m at with each story and determine if it’s viable enough to write. Three, I have to let the “creative” side lock the door, as it were, and not let anybody else in until he’s finished. This is probably going to be the most difficult step because of my perfectionism. But it must be done if I am going to conquer this task. 

I realize saying NaNo is not for me is more assumption than truth because I haven’t done it before. And to most writers, the reasons I listed for not doing NaNo can be labeled as excuses. But working on more manageable goals while still adhering to a deadline works better for me. I don’t feel as much pressure. Still, this is a task that will not be easy considering the circumstances. Wish me luck. 

Book Review: “Someone Else’s Love Story” by Joshilyn Jackson

For several months, I debated picking up one of Joshilyn Jackson’s books. The only thing I knew of her was that she made her home in Georgia, which isn’t a big deal. I read blurbs from numerous books in local bookstores and libraries, thinking I wanted to write Southern fiction. Continue reading “Book Review: “Someone Else’s Love Story” by Joshilyn Jackson”

Book Review: “And Thereby Hangs a Tale” by Jeffrey Archer

In any story, there’s a portion of yourself that goes into it. Whether it be someone from your past or a moment that stood out to you. And certainly Jeffrey Archer’s “And Thereby Hangs a Tale,” a collection of short stories, demonstrates this. He even admits in the author’s notes that most of the stories came from other storytellers. This wouldn’t be a big deal if there were more of Archer’s stories to balance them out.  Continue reading “Book Review: “And Thereby Hangs a Tale” by Jeffrey Archer”

Respect for the Individual

Fifteen years. For fifteen years, the citizens of the United States have commemorated the lives lost on September 11, 2001. Last year, I wrote a post about where I was and what I was doing that day, so I won’t bore you with the details. Instead, I want to briefly share my opinion on where we are now.  Continue reading “Respect for the Individual”

Baby Steps in Branching Out

I promise this will be a short post.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter chat session. Somehow, I got off tangent with the thread and talked about writing and reading in different genres. Because I hadn’t read other genres, I couldn’t write in other genres. But the moderator suggested I try flash fiction. Get a feel for writing in other genres, see if I like it. Continue reading “Baby Steps in Branching Out”