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

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I have a shelf-full of books about the technical aspects of writing; books on creating characters, how to plot a novel, how to market your book. But it has always been author Natalie Goldberg who has brought us down to earth and made writing real in her renowned Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within. She hasn’t strayed from those roots in her new book in which she desires all of us to write fearlessly. In Natalie’s world, “Writing is for everyone, like eating and sleeping.”


the true secret of writing cover imageLori: Your latest book The True Secret of Writing, may sound like it’s only geared toward the serious writer, but it isn’t. Could you elaborate? 

Natalie: I use writing to explain something much larger. You can apply it to anything that you want. How to actualize any aspect of your life–really your whole life.


What aspects of your personal Zen practice did you incorporate in this book?  

Everything. There is no separation between personal and universal.


What’s the best hint you can share with writers of memoir?

Memoir is the study of the way the mind remembers. Don’t even attempt to make your memories chronological. Let your writing unfold as you remember and then see what you have.


natalie goldberg headshot

Natalie Goldberg is the author of several books about the craft of writing.

I have lived in Santa Fe for the last ten years. That is an example of how you can’t project mystical values to any one place. Wherever you live is mystical–and ordinary. The important thing is to notice the details of place and record them wherever you live.


Of course, readers and writers admire your Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. In it, you encourage writers to “Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances.” So is a lot of writing all about not fearing failure?

Don’t pay attention to failure–or success. Both can toss you away.


In your travels abroad (you are about to head to Japan), what sort of writing and writers to you see and hear?

None. I just go to a place open faced.  Usually afterward I read their authors.


We know you as a writer, speaker, teacher. But in that 24th hour of the day, what else do you do? What sort of activities, hobbies, sports, captivate you? How about food? What do you relish?

I go to a yoga class three times a week and I hike a lot. I love being outside. I try to meditate everyday–outside if possible. I love to eat and I cook. Just today I made a big spice chocolate cake for my girlfriend’s birthday, and for the six months that the farmer’s market is happening I rarely shop for food any place else.

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