Happy NaNoWriMo! As today marks the start of what will be a massively busy month, I thought I'd take a second to share an inspiring video originally spotlighted on the NaNoWriMo blog. In it, author Natalie Goldberg shares insight on the value of writing practice and talks about how NaNoWriMo is a great way to jumpstart one's writing practice habits. Hit play to watch:
I'm also sharing Natalie Goldberg's 7 rules of writing practice, pulled from her how-to writing guide Wild Mind. My favorite is definitely #6—it really takes power away from one's internal censor and critic. (She talks more about how this here.)
Keep your hand moving. When you sit down to write, whether it's for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don't stop. If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don't budge. You'll go out writing... If you keep your creator hand moving, the editor can't catch up with it and lock it. It gets to write out what it wants. "Keep your hand moving" strengthens the creator and gives little space for the editor to jump in. Keeping your hand moving is the main structure for writing practice.
Lose control. Say what you want to say. Don't worry if it's correct, polite, appropriate. Just let it rip. Allen Ginsberg was getting a master's degree from Columbia University. Back then, they were doing rhymed verse. He had a lot of practice in formal meter, and so forth. One night, he went home and said to himself that he was going to write whatever he wanted and forget about formalities. The result was "Howl." We shouldn't forget how much practice in writing he had prior to this, but it is remarkable how I can tell students, "Okay, say what you want, go for it," and their writing takes a substantial turn toward authenticity.
Be specific. Not car, but Cadillac. Not fruit, but apple. Not bird, but wren. Not a codependent, neurotic man, but Harry, who runs to open the refrigerator for his wife, thinking she wants an apple, when she is headed for the gas stove to light her cigarette. Be careful of those pop-psychology labels. Get below the label and be specific to the person. But don't chastise yourself as you are writing, "I'm an idiot; Natalie said to be specific and like a fool I wrote 'tree.' " Just gently note that you wrote "tree," drop to a deeper level, and next to "tree" write "sycamore." Be gentle with yourself. Don't give room for the hard grip of the editor.
Don't think. We usually live in the realm of second or third thoughts, thoughts on thoughts, rather than in the realm of first thoughts, the real way we flash on something. Stay with the first flash. Writing practice will help you contact first thoughts. Just practice and forget everything else.
Don't worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.
You are free to write the worst junk in America. You can be more specific, if you like: the worst junk in Santa Fe; New York; Kalamazoo, Michigan; your city block; your pasture; your neighborhood restaurant; your family. Or you can get more cosmic: free to write the worst junk in the universe, galaxy, world, hemisphere, Sahara Desert.
Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That's where the energy is. Otherwise, you'll spend all your time writing around whatever makes you nervous. It will probably be abstract, bland writing because you're avoiding the truth. Hemingway said, "Write hard and clear about what hurts." Don't avoid it. It has all the energy. Don't worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.
Natalie Goldberg says, "The old essentials are still necessary. Stay with them under all circumstances. It will make you stable—something unusual for a writer."
And my favorite inspiring quote from Natalie: "Nobody cares much whether you write or not. You just have to do it."
"I had a mentor years ago, but she made such an impact on my life, I am now writing about our teacher/student relationship as a novel. Her name is Grace Nies Fletcher. She taught Creative Writing in Continuing Education at Texas Christian University…"
"This is terrific! It sounds almost exactly like something that happened to a close friend of mine. The girlfriend wasn't a pastry chef, but she too was from a foreign country. I'd like to hear more so keep writing... "