Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spontaneity and Honesty

I have been reading Natalie Goldberg's book Writing Down the Bones. Goldberg is very much self-identified as a writer. Most of her work has about the process of writing. She is a writer who writes about how to write. She has also published poetry, which I don't find especially interesting, and a novel I didn't like. Her best work is either memoir or how-to writing books or a combination.

She studied Zen with Katagiri Roshi in Minneapolis, and what she describes is very much writing as a Zen practice. In fact, Katagiri told her writing was her practice.

She emphasizes spontaneity and honesty, writing that comes straight from the heart. I enjoy reading her and think about using her writing exercises. But in my own writing I value control and lying. My writing, especially my prose fiction, is not spontaneous; it's worked over, revised and refined. Most of my writing is fiction and untrue. In fact, it is is not even realistic. It is science fiction and fantasy. I keep thinking about the line from Hamlet: "By indirections find directions out." Using fiction, one finds or says the truth.

I draw on my own life, my experiences and feelings, but I don't show them directly. They are hidden in the tale. And my stories wander into unplanned places. In that sense, they are spontaneous. But control is always present. I am not going to become enlightened working this way. But I am reasonably happy with the stories.


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