Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life
After the (somewhat unexpected) success of “Writing Down the Bones,” Natalie Goldberg was called, perhaps by her inner muse, perhaps by her publishing company, to write another book on writing. The result is “Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.”
In many ways “Wild Mind” is quite similar to “Writing Down the Bones,” so if you’ve already read that, there may not be a lot here that’s earth-shattering, but if you enjoyed “Bones,” you’ll probably enjoy “Wild Mind.” It’s also a combination of writing tips, personal musings, and Zen insights, written with a decided poet’s sensibility. Each chapter is short and deals with some facet of writing, often in a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness fashion. There are a number of writing tips, most of which boil down to: write more. Goldberg, like most professional writers, is a big believer in scheduled, timed writing sessions and other ways of holding yourself accountable for the writing process. One of the most amusing episodes in “Wild Mind” is her description of trying to get her writing back on track and making appointment with a friend to meet for a joint writing session: her friend says she might not be able to make it, but Natalie tells her not to worry: if *she* (Natalie) thinks her friend might show up, then she’ll have to come, and she does. She then spends the next several weeks making appointments with her friend for writing sessions that only Natalie attends. A bit unorthodox, perhaps, and a potential way to shed yourself of your less patient and understanding friends, but something to consider if you really, really have a hard time scheduling that all-important writing time.
Still, “Wild Mind” is not about a business-like approach to writing, but about how to make writing into a craft and an art form. If you’re looking for tips on how to write the next bestseller, you will be disappointed, because Goldberg is here to help you develop your authentic writing self, not pump out cookie-cutter books that will be devoured and tossed aside in favor of the next flavor of the week. Instead, she gives inspirational talks on how to break through your barriers and start creating. As she tells us in the essay that gives the book its name:
“So, either in New Mexico or Ohio, we are under a big sky. That big sky is wild mind. I’m going to climb up to that sky straight over our heads and put one dot on it with a Magic Marker. See that dot? That dot is what Zen calls monkey mind or what western psychology calls part of conscious mind. We give all our attention to that one dot. So when it says we can’t write, that we’re no good, are failures, fools for even picking up a pen, we listen to it.” […]
“So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sin into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours–your own wild mind…Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It is the best way to write. To live, too.”