Content Tagged ‘Natalie Goldberg’

A slew of new books about writing

January 1, 2013 | 13 Comments

Art, craft, and the elusive self

April 12, 2011 | 9 Comments

I knew Dave Owen in another life—my Hoosier period—and since then he’s become an admired landscape painter in southern Indiana. In his thoughtful new blog post “With the Artist Added,” at David Owen Art Notes, Dave reflects on the nature of art and artists as he prepares for a show. I was struck by how much his insights apply to writers and writing.

In the first place, he isn’t wild about the three pieces he’s taking to the competition, including the landscape reproduced above. And yet: “. . . I have realized that my paintings become neither better nor worse when a judge gives them a thumbs down or a thumbs up. They have a life of their own and are whatever they are.”

To me, “In Schooner Valley” is lovely. But I can’t see what Dave sees—and certainly not what he’d hoped to see emerge from his brushstrokes. I too have finished pieces that I feel don’t quite work. Or at least fell short of what I’d imagined. Even successful and published stories, essays, and poems are handmade things and are lumpy or lopsided in spots. And what a mess we had to make to get halfway close to our intentions. Have you ever seen an artist’s studio, a potter’s bench, or a writer’s hard drive?

After fearsome effort, the creator sees flaws. “A poem is never finished, only abandoned,” said Paul Valery. I believe it. Artists labor until they’re frustrated with what they have made—the work’s no longer an ego extension, far from it—and their feelings can’t be hurt by a judge or an editor. They did the best they could, got what help they could, and at some point they moved on. Not because they gave up too easily, but because whatever that object still needs is beyond their powers.

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Review: ‘Old Friend from Far Away’

February 20, 2010 | 8 Comments

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg. Free Press. 309 pages Books on writing fall into two broad categories: how-to and inspirational. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is solidly in the latter tradition, and I suppose so is Old Friend From Far Away. Yet Old Friend is ultimately highly practical, for it captures the spirit of writing and the essence of memoir. I think I tend to be kind of . . . …

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On memoir vs. monkey mind

February 15, 2010 | 3 Comments

“Know that writing is born from the ache of contraries, polarities in search of peace, of unity. But not the unity of making mush. You want to live in the country. Your husband is an urban boy. You compromise and both live in the suburbs. What a squash of desire and energy.” “But writing has this quality where all the effort and desire in the world doesn’t do shit. It’s hard to comprehend. All our lives we’ve been taught to …

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The sentimentality tightrope

August 11, 2009 | 2 Comments

from Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg: “A responsibility of literature is to make people awake, present, alive. If the writer wanders, then the reader, too, will wander. The fly on the table might be part of the whole description of a restaurant. It might be appropriate to tell precisely the sandwich that it just walked over, but there is a fine line between precision and self-indulgence. “Stay on the side of precision; know your …

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