By Natalie Goldberg
Bantum, 238 pp., $11.95
Four years after publishing Writing Down the Bones author Natalie Goldberg determined that “a book about writing isn’t enough.” Wild Mind: living the writer’s life reconsiders what it means to be a writer beyond the practice of writing. She presents writing as a holistic approach to experiencing life that produces the byproduct of written word about the experience itself. This book is not about “freeing the writer within” rather it’s sharing answers to the question of how she lives, how she thinks, and how she’s figured out what it means to write.
Read the Writing Down the Bones review here.
As in her first book on writing, the reader engages at will with the mini chapter format. Additionally, Ms. Goldberg added thirty-five concrete writing “Try this” exercises sprinkled through the book in lieu of lose suggestions. These exercises were a surprise, in a book meant to be less concrete, until read. In her encouraging Zen approach, suggestions like “write for 10 minutes about what you’ll miss when you die,” “write about a time you had magical powers,” “make a list of words you really like,” and “write everyday for 10 days in a row; be brave” push the author out of her comfort zone and into uncharted territory.
Ms. Goldberg is insightful as the day is long. Her comments on English majors leave the reader in stitches: “I honor English majors. It’s a dumb thing to major in.” Again, as in Bones, she prods, pulls and cajoles the writer free to write. The encouraging anecdotes, the numerous exercises, and the reflections, on writing her novel Banana Rose, inspire. This book centers far less on her poetry and more on the grueling process of writing, garnering feedback and revising a novel. Even she an award-winning, published author was humbled by the experience of prose.
Ms. Goldberg’s Wild Mind is the fraternal twin of Writing Down the Bones. Both provide unique hope, ideas and comfort to writers at all stages on the journey.