26 September 2013

‘Dem Bones, ‘Dem Bones…

I started to type the title for my post and the theme to “Bad Boys” came into my head. ‘Dem bones, ‘dem bones, whatchoo gonna do? Whatchoo gonna do when dey come fo’ you… Our theme next month is releasing our ghosts through writing and I couldn’t resist posting to that a little early. It feels Octoberish in my part of the States right now anyway, so here we go.

Many, many words have been penned about memoir, personal writing, journaling, keeping a diary, and a host of other ways to say the same thing: meeting ourselves on the page. I read once that journaling is the closest we come to being in the moment, except that it’s still at one remove because we’re talking about the moment and not literally being in it. (Sit with that thought a moment, it’s rather Zen but I think is a good point to ponder.) So how the hell do we do that?

One of my favorite books for getting into the moment on the page is by Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones. In it, she gives a series of essays and exercises to guide us in getting in touch with ourselves on the page and for getting into the moment. It amounts to getting out of our own way and quieting the censor, that voice that says, “That’s not how you spell censor!”

Rather than worrying about how we’re writing, we write and let the words flow out of us like the breath. When we breathe, we don’t worry about how we’re breathing, it just happens automatically. When we start to speak to someone, we open our mouths and the words flow out of us – we don’t think about how to breath to form speech, how to shape our mouths, where to put our tongue, or any of that. For most of us it’s simply an automatic process. We speak, simple as that.

I remember the first time I picked up Ms. Goldberg’s book. I was living in Mount Shasta at the time. I worked in a bookstore/coffee house and my official story was, “I was on sabbatical to write books.” That’s also the literal truth, though I wouldn’t have put such fancy language around it. I wanted to write books with every fiber of my being but, unfortunately, there’s not a book-writing tree from which we can go pick fruit and BAM! a book results. It’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot of “stuff” in the way: chiefly, that censor I talked about above. Ms. Goldberg’s words practically floated off the page and hit me between the eyes: try filling one notebook a month.

One notebook a month? Is she nuts? Crazy? Cracked? Wrong?

Nope. She’s pretty much on the ball with that one, as I discovered over the months after reading her book and fighting with the exercises and learning, word by word, page by page, to get over myself and just write.

What about you? What’s your favorite tool for getting onto the page?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

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