After twenty plus years, I still have to say that the most influential book in my writing life is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I read it shortly after I graduated from college, and wished I had read it before I started.
I was paralyzed by writing assignments for courses, even though I loved writing. It was a classic love-hate relationship, me and writing. But when I read what Goldberg said about writing practice, that I needed to tell myself this – “I am free to write the worst junk in the world” – something clicked for me. Something like freedom.
I have since read Bones multiple times, and I keep buying copies of it, because I keep giving it away to other writers (or would-be writers who haven’t pushed past needing to write well all the time). What it is I keep coming back to is this idea that I truly don’t know what I have to say about anything until I start writing about it. I cannot speak for anyone else on this matter, but this is an absolute fact for me.
People who know me as an acquaintance or colleague will often describe me as calm, and quiet. And diplomatic. I am those things to some degree, but mainly it is because I require a pen (or keyboard) to explore the full extent of what’s “on my mind.”
Or rather, “in my mind.” In the crevices and folds and creases, the stuff that hides away until I start writing. And then it’s like, “Oh, that’s how I feel about that.” Or, “I hadn’t thought about it that way before”… until the moment I write it down, and suddenly it is all very clear.
I suppose that makes me a good diplomat, since I have to listen a lot – and write even more – until I get to a point of discovering my full thinking on any topic.
So, if you want to know where my poems come from, all I can say is they come from writing.
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