I read Writing Down The Bones as part of a short fiction course back in college, almost 20 years ago. In it, Natalie Goldberg writes about writing, about poetry, about spirituality, about presence. She also describes “writing practice”, which is a technique to allow the writer to just let go, to work at silencing the internal editor, to train yourself to relax.
I follow the Rules of Writing Practice each time, and I remind myself of them every time I sit down with a blank page and a pen. They go like this:
- Keep your hand moving.
- Don’t cross out.
- Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. (Don’t even worry about staying in the margins or on the lines.)
- Lose control.
- Don’t think, don’t get logical.
- Go for the jugular.
Over the years I come back to writing practice when I want to feel like I’ve created something tangible. I do writing practice as a way to clear my mind before beginning work on a story or a novel. I do writing practice when there’s nothing else I have time for. I do writing practice because sometimes it feels damn awesome to lose myself in the moment, to focus solely on an image, to allow my mind and my hand to drift without any kind of internal restraints, without any filter, without any way of stopping.
I do this kind of writing practice for a number of pages, or for a set amount of time (I believe my record is an hour, loooong ago), or until I get to the jugular. And because it is not filtered, not revised, not planned, it often does not turn out like anything close to a finished product. But sometimes, sometimes I get to the end and shivers flow up and down my spine, making the hairs on my arms twitch, filling my senses with passion and intensity. In those moments I feel that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this whole writing thing.