Hold It All

Tag: Natalie Goldberg

“Every Moment Forever”

I shared the following earlier today with my friend Rob Trousdale, who lives at the Duluth Catholic Worker. These Katagiri Roshi passages are from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

“Why do you come to sit meditation? Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.”

“Your little mind can’t do anything. It takes Great Determination. Great Determination doesn’t just mean you making an effort. It means the whole universe is behind you and with you–the birds, trees, sky, moon, and ten directions.”

“Have kind consideration for all sentient beings.”

“It is very deep to have a cup of tea.” Read the rest of this entry »

That Glow, That Yes!

Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft
30 September 2000

It’s clear to me today, anyway, that my Holy Contour of Life book will be a structure like Natalie’s: short, compressed, easy to read and reread, straightforward. I can continue to play with this. Because having “finished” the new version (how many versions have I had???) in which I fractured chronology, now it seems too disjointed and contrived, so I want to break it up further, maybe chronologically, but just keep it to two pages max.

Commentaries, yes, but creatively done, maybe with lists, found shit, short portions of letters (like mine to Peter Pfersick), journals, and articles. Weave them together. Like on riches and poverty: Set it up, find one quotation from GG interview, then one from Sobrino interview, then add a further comment, then use the photos.

Here in Thunder and Lightning, Natalie is still giving her Zen advice on writing as a spiritual practice … Writing Down the Bones, III (After Wild Mind being Bones II). She’s found what works for her, she’s just giving good advice coming out of her own vulnerable, wise experiences as a writer, a meditator, a slow walker, a Jew, a neurotic. “What if Natalie Goldberg were one of us? Just a shmo like one of us?”

And I read this, quelle surprise, only for insight on how to keep going with Book of Mev, Holy Contour of Life, My Fucking Memoir, whatever it’s to be entitled. And this book moves beyond writing practice to structure, craft, finishing a project. So what I note below may be useful in this process:
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Writing to Wake Up: A Course in Creativity and Community

Think about it: Even with all our sophisticated technologies and modes of communication, who feels as though there is enough time? And yet, we need time, as community activist Grace Lee Boggs has said, to “grow our souls”: Time to think, to explore, to share, to listen. We need time to be in touch with ourselves, each other, the world.

In this eight-week course, we will take time and use writing as a practice to wake up more fully. We will experience solitude, as writing is an individual journey. And we will extend solidarity, as writing can be a bridge to others.

Our basic text is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. We’ll practice separating the “creator” from the “editor” (critic) by doing non-stop, timed writings in notebooks or laptops. We will explore topics such as memory, dreams, work, obsessions, wonder, play, politics, friends, letting go, and much more. Each class will allow time for multiple writing sessions, paired exchange and large group sharing of writing, report backs on assignments, and quiet meditation. I will also offer provocations from poets, sages, artists, and prophets. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News, 3.8.2017

I once asked Mayuko and Minami (both in my fall 8 a.m. MWF Humanities class) if they had heard of Sei Shōnagon (清少納言). Of course they had!  They had read her years ago in school.  I only recently made acquaintance with SS through Meredith  McKinney’s translation for Penguin.

Reading her renowned Pillow Book, I thought of Allen Ginsberg’s maxim, “If we don’t show anyone, we’re free to write anything”:  

At times I am beside myself with exasperation at everything, and temporarily inclined to feel I’d simply be better off dead, or am longing to just go away somewhere, anywhere, then if I happen to come by some lovely white paper for everyday use and a good writing brush, or white decorated paper or Michinoku paper, I’m immensely cheered, and find myself thinking I might perhaps be able to go on living for a while longer after all.  212 Read the rest of this entry »

Not That You Need My Permission

It’s OK if you write three lines
It’s OK if you write 3000 lines and never pause to ask, “Who’ll read this?”
It’s OK if you write 10,000 notebook pages and never let anyone see them

It’s OK to get tired of writing practice
It’s OK to take a break, oh, maybe seven years from writing anything
It’s OK to be a prophet of privacy

It’s OK to cease and desist sharing your every random thought
It’s OK if you think no one would care to read your formulations and fulminations
It’s OK to devote yourself to badminton or the history of Motown

It’s OK if you de-activate your blog(s)
It’s OK if you just say No a hundred times to someone who is always, relentlessly over the top badgering you
It’s OK if you see the writing game as another ego trap

It’s OK to spit when you hear the name “Natalie Goldberg”
It’s OK to be grateful and never never breathe a word about it
It’s OK to write out by hand a letter of all your tortured, terrific secrets and then strike a match Read the rest of this entry »

Writing Topics

Mary told me she spent a Sunday rereading the notebook she kept in Social Justice class 4.5 years ago. She was rejuvenated to start writing more, so I sent her these topics, after consulting Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away:


Writing Topics for Mary:1



Writing topics for Mary:2

Writing to Wake Up


Natalie Goldberg: I also place on the altar a photo of Allen Ginsberg in a yellow wood frame, sitting in a white shirt, cross-legged, his face captured in an uncanny smile. He is our muse of raw honesty for the week. An essay of his written in 1974 is titled “Polishing the Mind” and connects the study of the mind with poetry. When I read it, I knew I had found my wiring path. I wanted to document and structure a practice for others to follow, a way through writing to wake up. I consider Allen Ginsberg the grandfather of the writing practice lineage.


Allen Ginsberg: The only things we “know” are what we think in the moments we give ourselves away, “tip our mitt.” 233 Read the rest of this entry »

This I Know Is True

If you stay in relation to writing (rather than zoning out for six years) and you connect with writing friends, read, listen deeply, you will write what you want but most likely never the way you imagined it.

–Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing

Walking Together without Fear: Reading and Writing with Alice Walker

Author of many books, most famously The Color Purple, Alice Walker is one of the most renowned  writers who came of age during the 1960s in this country. Now in her early seventies, she continues to produce creative work and interfere with injustice as a global citizen in people’s movements.

In this summer course we will read and write responses to  many of Walker’s recent poems (as well as to our own experiences) and discuss her short essays on her activist life.

We’ll meet from 6:30 to 8:15 on Thursdays  July 9, 16, 23, 30, August 6, 13, 20, and 27. We are fortunate to gather at Jerry and Marty King’s home (third floor 830 DeMun Avenue, Clayton 63105).

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One-Liners Randomly Culled from My Marked-up Copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones

I have taught over 100 courses since 2001, and I assigned Writing down the Bones in almost all of them.  I never tire of hearing the students read aloud her chapters, which contain lines like the following…


We were willing to commit ourselves to a whole day of writing each week because writing, sharing, and friendship are important.

Many of us don’t know, don’t recognize, avoid our deep dreams.

To begin with, write like you talk, nothing fancy.

… the way your mind first flashes on something before second and third thoughts take over…

“Natalie, this book is done. You will write another one.”

Often, as I write my best pieces, my heart is breaking. Read the rest of this entry »