Writing Inspiration & Being a Human

“I have a pile of spiral notebooks about five feet high that begin around 1977, my early years of writing in Taos, New Mexico. I want to throw them out- who can bear to look at the junk of our own minds that comes out in writing practice? I have a friend in New Mexico who makes solar houses out of beer cans and old tires. I think I will try to build one out of discarded spiral notebooks. A friend who lives upstairs says, “Don’t get rid of them.” I tell her she can have them if she wants.

I pile them up on her stairs leading up to her apartment and leave for Norfolk, Nebraska, for four days to do a writing workshop. When I return she looks at me oddly, plunks herself down in the old pink chair in my bedroom: “I’ve been reading your notebooks all weekend. They are so intimate; so scared, insecure for pages, then suddenly they are not you- just raw energy and wild mind. And now here you are – Natalie- in the flesh, just a person. It feels so funny.” I feel good because I don’t care that she sees how I really am. I’m glad. I want someone to know me. We walk through so many myths of each other and ourselves; we are so thankful when someone sees us for who we are and accepts us.

She said it was empowering to read my notebooks because she realized that I really did write “shit,” sometimes for whole notebooks. Often I tell my students, “Listen, I write and still write terrible self-pitying stuff for page after page.” They don’t believe me. Reading my notebooks is living proof of that. My upstairs neighbor said, “If you could write the junk you did then and write the stuff you do now, I realize I can do anything. There’s so much power in the mind. I feel like who knows that I can do!” She said that main thing she saw in the notebooks- whole notebooks of complaints, boring description, and flagrant anger- was an absolute trust in the process. “I saw that you kept on writing even when you wrote, ‘I must be nuts to do this.'”

From Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones

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