Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, by Natalie Goldberg

The True Secret of Writing:
Connecting Life with Language
Author: Natalie Goldberg 
Publisher: Atria Books 
Publication Date: March 19, 2013 

Imagine having a teacher whom you very much admire--say, a theatre instructor or an art history professor--and you have nothing but fond memories of her. But then you go back to your old school years later only to realize that she's a blithering old hippy dippy whose great insights are all about "vibes" and "vapors."

That's how I felt reading Natalie Goldberg's latest book.

Oh, Natalie Goldberg. It's so hard for me to criticize her, since I spent much of my twenties valuing her insights on writing and applying them in my own writing and in various writing workshops I ran. Well, sort of. I liked her books but I may have overestimated my admiration for her because I was constantly confusing her with Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, author of my hands-down favourite book of writing instruction of all time, poemcrazy. Still, I thought of Natalie Goldberg warmly, as one who wrote fairly helpful books about writing (if not many books about anything else).

And then I read The True Secret of Writing. Sigh.

If most of Ms. Goldberg's previous books are filled with advice on how to write rather than examples of her own writing, this book takes it one step further by simply being about her writing workshops. It's not even a guide to "how to run a writing retreat" so much as a description of various retreats she's run over the years.

According to Goldberg, the "true secret" of writing is to simply write. To sit still, walk around, meditate, be silent and write. This is all well and good if your only goal is journal writing--writing something, anything, every day without fail--but I'm not sure it's that helpful for those looking for writing prompts or daily reflections. In fact, I'm not sure if it warrants an entire book.

It pains me to say it, but I found The True Secret of Writing to be Natalie Goldberg's least inspiring book to date.

I cannot, however, recommend poemcrazy highly enough!

You Might Also Like:
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing Your Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

52 Weeks, 52 Love Poems, by Jeffrey Klausman

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from Edelweiss (Above the Tree Line). I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

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