More musings from Natalie Goldberg on writing as a spiritual path, as "an authentic Zen way." Goldberg has some nice things to say about the importance of the process of writing. She recommends her students spend two years at writing "practice" before undertaking a specific project, so that they can "get in touch with their wild minds." The most inspired writing, she says, comes when one's conscious mind gets out of the way. Still, we are puzzled by Thunder and Lightning
: is it really meant to show us how to turn "our flashes of inspiration ... into a polished piece of work," as the book jacket touts? It comes off more as a collection of Goldberg's ruminations on writing and reading. Goldberg tells us about her friend Julie's writing process. Another pal, Kate, talks about plot. We study Styron with Goldberg's workshop students and take a road trip through the South to try to figure out just how some of the poorest states in the union managed to produce so many great writers. There are some good stories here, and it's vaguely interesting to know what Nat likes to order when she does her café writing or lunches with her editors, but we end up desiring a little less wandering and a little more focus. --Jane Steinberg
From Publishers Weekly
Goldberg here urges aspiring writers to go beyond the Zen-inspired writing practice she presented in her 1986 bestseller Writing Down the Bones and the subsequent Wild Mind. Writing practice was a means Goldberg devised of observing the mind by moving the hand, writing through our endless judgments and opinions until the unstoppable stream of thought becomes transparent and we can see clear through the mind to the vibrant life force that shines up from the bottom. In this guide, Goldberg seeks to help students find the organic formsAthe resonant questions and questsAthat exist deep down within us. She doesn't teach technique so much as affirm that the life force carves a particular channel in each of us. The title came to Goldberg several years ago in Costa Rica, as she stood at the foot of an active volcano and experienced the sudden power of a tropical storm: "I thought, some divine structure has just whipped through here." Goldberg describes her various book projects as inspirations that crash down like lightning, absorbing her and vanishing. As she delves into her own process and the process of other writers, however, it becomes clear that the work of discovering form can be as long and painstaking as an archeological dig, and as painful as surgery. Great book and story ideas do tend to come in flashes, she confirms. But they come to those who have gotten by the barking dogs of the conventional mind only to face the raw truth about what is. Goldberg writes as someone who has been there and back. She guides readers without handing out any illusions about how easy the trip is. BOMC, QPB, One Spirit Book Club and Reader's Subscription alternates.
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