On Writing Bones and Great Springs

Natalie Goldberg has a new book out called The Great Spring. It's wonderful.

Those who love to write likely remember the breakthrough book called "Writing Down the Bones." It came out in 1987. It was a quiet debut, but after being handed along from writing friend to writing friend, the book became a phenomenon.

Goldberg is like the Doctor Ruth of writing -- she gives us permission to just do it. Just do it, enjoy it, talk about it, practice it, make mistakes, have successes, and overall just keep experimenting and having a great time.

Goldberg also elevates writing practice to another level, where a daily writing practice resembles a sort of spiritual discipline, a la Zen meditation or zazen. But frankly I tend to overlook that bit. I love the juicy part of the practice: the rush of opening the mind a certain way, the feel of the pen, the urgency, the focus, and the exhale that comes after.

I wondered, what would a workshop with Natalie Goldberg be like?

Well, recently I was invited to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Writing Down the Bones with Natalie and about 300 of her friends at the fabled Mable Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. It was a full weekend of festivities, readings, speeches, shares, warmth, humor, meditations and more. The events culminated in a writing workshop, my first.

If you get a chance to attend a Natalie Goldberg workshop -- do it.

I've made a living via writing for many years but never attended a writing workshop. "I don't like groups," I thought. At least, I imagined I didn't learn well in a classroom, that writing is best learned by -- well -- writing. But that was misguided. A writing class, it turns out, is like an exercise class. Sure, you can do yoga on your own, but your postures are a little more crisp, the workout a little more thorough, and the satisfaction at the end a little more validated somehow in a room full of people doing it along with you. There's more of the juicy bits: there's more focus, more urgency, more rush. And more results.

I felt a new confidence as a writer after the weekend. I felt more solid, more centered in the process, in the work. All this surprised me.

So if you've never been, try a workshop with Natalie Goldberg. It's instant return on investment. Her books are mini-workshops, also a good investment. But the workshop is really special.

A public reading, similar to how a workshop looks -- until you break off into groups...

A public reading, similar to how a workshop looks -- until you break off into groups...

If you're a writer or know someone who is -- definitely give the gift of Goldberg.


Kathleen Hurley