Saturday, November 03, 2012

Natalie Goldberg 1

It's pitch black dark outside, and I seem to be in a grim mood. I think it's the approaching end of a really dreadful election, in which we have a choice between a party of sexism, racism, homophobia and hatred of the poor -- and a party which shills for Wall Street. Evil and lesser evil. Ah well.

I plan to go to the Farmers Market as soon as it's light enough to see what is being sold. In the meantime, I think I will write about Natalie Goldberg. I have been re-reading one of her books. There is much about her I dislike. I envy her success. I think she gushes too much, and I think she is too self-involved. But she is a good memoirist; and she writes well about using writing as a form of Zen meditation. I use her when I want to read about Zen and Katagiri Roshi, the wonderful Zen teacher who lived in Minnesota for many years; and when I want to think about my relationship to writing.

It's interesting to read her ideas about writing and think, "This is utterly crazy."

Goldberg sees writing as self-expression. "We all have a dream of telling our stories -- of realizing what we think, feel and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate." Talking about herself, she writes, "There were stories only I knew about my family, about my first kiss, last haircut, the smell of sage on a mesa and my kinship with the flat plains of Nebraska."

Yes, we all have stories like these. But why share them with the world? Find a good friend. Find a good therapist. Tell them. Or keep a journal.

I have very little interest in telling the story of my life. I live it, and that is sufficient. I'm not especially interested in meeting myself. I probably should be. I certainly respect Goldberg's dedication to Zen practice.

But I want to write about other people, people who aren't me; and I want to write about places that don't -- at present -- exist. I want to tell made-up stories, not memoirs disguised as stories.

Lots of people take Goldberg's classes and struggle to record their lives, so this is a common need. But lots of people read science fiction and fantasy, which suggests a need for made-up stories.


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