Natalie Goldberg on How a Writer Must Say Yes to Life

We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand.

We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived.

Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn’t matter. Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency.

A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter.

It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.”

Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist –

– the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the grey, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children.

We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.

We should remember human life is constantly crossed with the dark and the light. We are deluded to think we can find a solid island of safely and forever hold on tight. That’s what gets us into trouble in the first place.

We grab one thing and go blind — or fight between two, thinking one will win.

What deep conflict haunts you? Where are you pulled in two different directions? Where are you wrestling to no avail?

Write about the polarities without trying to come to a conclusion.

Take a slow walk down your street. Let the details of the light, trees, buildings fill you. Let the world come home to you. Plant the conflict deep in your belly and be nurtured with what’s around you.

Sit and feel the goodness of being a human being.

This conflict is the ground to step forward into the present moment. If it’s hot, let it be hot. Don’t run for an air-conditioned room. Let what is, be what is.

Something new will be born.

~ Natalie Goldberg, ‘The True Secret of Writing’





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