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Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic Writing Down the Bones, True Secret workshops have been limited until now to small, intensive groups at a remote center in th Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic Writing Down the Bones, True Secret workshops have been limited until now to small, intensive groups at a remote center in the rural Southwest. In The True Secret of Writing, Goldberg makes this popular seminar available to any reader. The True Secret is for everyone, like eating and sleeping. It allows you to discover something real about your life, to mine the rich awareness in your mind, and to ground and empower yourself. Goldberg guides you through your own personal or group retreat, illuminating the steps of sitting in silent open mind, walking anchored to the earth, and writing without criticism. Just as Goldberg cuts through her students’ resistance with her no-nonsense instruction—“Shut up and write”—the True Secret cuts to the core of realizing yourself and your world. The capstone to forty years of teaching, The True Secret of Writing is Goldberg’s Zen boot camp, her legacy teaching. Stories of Natalie’s own search for truth and clarity and her students’ breakthroughs and insights give moving testament to how brilliantly her unique, tough-love method works. Beautiful homages to the work of other great teachers and observers of mind, life, and love provide further secrets and inspiration to which readers will return again and again. In her inimitable way, Goldberg will inspire you to pick up the pen, get writing, and keep going. The True Secret of Writing will help you with your writing—and your life.


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Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic Writing Down the Bones, True Secret workshops have been limited until now to small, intensive groups at a remote center in th Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic Writing Down the Bones, True Secret workshops have been limited until now to small, intensive groups at a remote center in the rural Southwest. In The True Secret of Writing, Goldberg makes this popular seminar available to any reader. The True Secret is for everyone, like eating and sleeping. It allows you to discover something real about your life, to mine the rich awareness in your mind, and to ground and empower yourself. Goldberg guides you through your own personal or group retreat, illuminating the steps of sitting in silent open mind, walking anchored to the earth, and writing without criticism. Just as Goldberg cuts through her students’ resistance with her no-nonsense instruction—“Shut up and write”—the True Secret cuts to the core of realizing yourself and your world. The capstone to forty years of teaching, The True Secret of Writing is Goldberg’s Zen boot camp, her legacy teaching. Stories of Natalie’s own search for truth and clarity and her students’ breakthroughs and insights give moving testament to how brilliantly her unique, tough-love method works. Beautiful homages to the work of other great teachers and observers of mind, life, and love provide further secrets and inspiration to which readers will return again and again. In her inimitable way, Goldberg will inspire you to pick up the pen, get writing, and keep going. The True Secret of Writing will help you with your writing—and your life.

30 review for The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language

  1. 5 out of 5

    Book Him Danno

    At first I thought this book was a bit to new-age zenny for me…was I wrong. The author talks about meditation, reading workshops, walking, sitting, authors she has worked with and everyday folks like you and me. She talks about writing and how it is in you and you need to get it out and write. Writing can be therapeutic and cathartic. I feel that way about writing and was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about what another writer thinks and feels. You do not have to be published to be a wri At first I thought this book was a bit to new-age zenny for me…was I wrong. The author talks about meditation, reading workshops, walking, sitting, authors she has worked with and everyday folks like you and me. She talks about writing and how it is in you and you need to get it out and write. Writing can be therapeutic and cathartic. I feel that way about writing and was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about what another writer thinks and feels. You do not have to be published to be a writer. We all have something to say and even if we are the only ones who read it….write it….write it and love what you wrote. Write about life, love, hurts, dreams, whatever you want. I think anyone who writes will love this book. So much information and so much to love about this book and writing, if you want to write…read this book. If you do write…read this book. I plan to share this book with other writers I know and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    Loved it. This is not a straight up writing book like Goldberg's excellent Writing Down the Bones. It is more like a conversation, a long ride across country with Goldberg and some of her friends. If you are a fan, you will tolerate and even adore some of her borderline stream of consciousness chapters. Zen, poetry, life, death. It's all here. And after the long road trip, you will need to stretch your legs. Then, get out your notebook and your special pens, or keyboard, and Shut up and write. S Loved it. This is not a straight up writing book like Goldberg's excellent Writing Down the Bones. It is more like a conversation, a long ride across country with Goldberg and some of her friends. If you are a fan, you will tolerate and even adore some of her borderline stream of consciousness chapters. Zen, poetry, life, death. It's all here. And after the long road trip, you will need to stretch your legs. Then, get out your notebook and your special pens, or keyboard, and Shut up and write. So many lovely words that can be chiseled down to just four, Shut up and write.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Not really what I was looking for, but perhaps something I needed all the same. The book is in four sections. 1) Basic essentials: The ground of being What Zen is; how Goldberg practices Zen; what practice is 2) True Secret Retreat Essentials "the nitty gritty of a formal True Secret Retreat." i.e. the physicality, routine, and tasks of the Zen retreats Goldberg runs 3)Elaborations Writing exercises from the retreats, with Goldberg's reflections. Examples are; six word memoirs, textual sketches of fam Not really what I was looking for, but perhaps something I needed all the same. The book is in four sections. 1) Basic essentials: The ground of being What Zen is; how Goldberg practices Zen; what practice is 2) True Secret Retreat Essentials "the nitty gritty of a formal True Secret Retreat." i.e. the physicality, routine, and tasks of the Zen retreats Goldberg runs 3)Elaborations Writing exercises from the retreats, with Goldberg's reflections. Examples are; six word memoirs, textual sketches of familiar things, writing in a cafe and writing overheard conversations, lists. These are thoughtful and creative exercises, and Goldberg's observations are fresh and intriguing. 4) Encounters and Teachers Short essays about Goldberg's experiences as a writer, her thoughts on authors she has read, and students she has taught. Goldberg's student Gwen made me cry. (view spoiler)[ Dying of cancer aged 54 is a cruel blow. Gwen had said, "I thought I'd hold off real writing until I retired. When I heard my terminal diagnosis I realized in that instant all I ever really wanted to do was write." (hide spoiler)] On first reading I only enjoyed the second half of the book, but the more I think about the idea of mindful practice the more I realize I can learn a lot from the first section, too.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Ibrahim ♥

    I feel cheated and I love it! The title says that Natalie has the "true" secret of writing, but right in the introduction auntie Natalie spells it out: there is no secret of writing, and if someone tells you he does run for the hills. Natalie understandably loves Zen so much so that she integrates it into her writing courses. How can Zen help you in writing? This book is Zen, lay Zen; sitting and then stepping out into the suffering of the world. Zen, Zen! It is all good as long as it is Natalie I feel cheated and I love it! The title says that Natalie has the "true" secret of writing, but right in the introduction auntie Natalie spells it out: there is no secret of writing, and if someone tells you he does run for the hills. Natalie understandably loves Zen so much so that she integrates it into her writing courses. How can Zen help you in writing? This book is Zen, lay Zen; sitting and then stepping out into the suffering of the world. Zen, Zen! It is all good as long as it is Natalie Speaking. I enjoy her writing style, even though I don't need her to tell me the "secret" of writing as I already know it, and it is "just do it!". The book didn't add much to me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Another book by the wonderful Natalie Goldberg on writing. Many interesting exercises and her usual blend of the creative process combined with Zen practice. And as always, I felt inspired by Goldberg and frequently stopped my reading to go write. "Shut up, and write," her four words of wisdom and advice to writers. I hope I can put this into practice on a more regular basis. Her sharing about the death of a friend and student, her sharing of thoughts about death and Zen writings about it, were un Another book by the wonderful Natalie Goldberg on writing. Many interesting exercises and her usual blend of the creative process combined with Zen practice. And as always, I felt inspired by Goldberg and frequently stopped my reading to go write. "Shut up, and write," her four words of wisdom and advice to writers. I hope I can put this into practice on a more regular basis. Her sharing about the death of a friend and student, her sharing of thoughts about death and Zen writings about it, were unsettling, painful, and also oddly hopeful. Like her classic Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (which it is definitely time for me to re-read), this is a book I feel I can turn to for inspiration and comfort. Reading Goldberg is like listening to a very wise and loving friend. Also, I romanticize New Mexico incredibly anyway (only increased by my visits there) so that part of her books further enhances the experience for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This book is for "Goldbergians," those who have read all of her books and have attended workshops with her, none of which I've ever done. Her method sounds interesting: Sit (in meditation), walk (mindfully), write (in short 10-minute bursts of "free writing," responding to a prompt she comes up with). I felt like an "outsider," even a voyeur. It seems that almost all of her students are middle-aged (or older), rich white women. At points I was inspired, at other times bored. I was intrigued by h This book is for "Goldbergians," those who have read all of her books and have attended workshops with her, none of which I've ever done. Her method sounds interesting: Sit (in meditation), walk (mindfully), write (in short 10-minute bursts of "free writing," responding to a prompt she comes up with). I felt like an "outsider," even a voyeur. It seems that almost all of her students are middle-aged (or older), rich white women. At points I was inspired, at other times bored. I was intrigued by her bringing zen into the craft of writing. But I was not brought into her circle. I'm glad that I read the book, but I wish that I had first read _Writing Down the Bones_.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I think Natalie Goldberg really wanted to write a book about how to practice Buddhism and lead a Zen-filled life, but thought that since her claim to fame is for writing books about writing she had to tie this book to writing as well. As someone who is interested in the art of writing but not so much in Buddhism, this is the worst sort of navel-gazing and I am disappointed and feel like I was conned.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diane Challenor

    Just bought hardcopy of Natalie Goldberg's The True Secret of Writing. I love every word! A treasure! I don't know what it is about Natalie Goldberg's writing but there is just something in her words that triggers a need in me to pick up a pen and write stuff down. Whatever the magic is, it works for me. Thanks Natalie! Just bought hardcopy of Natalie Goldberg's The True Secret of Writing. I love every word! A treasure! I don't know what it is about Natalie Goldberg's writing but there is just something in her words that triggers a need in me to pick up a pen and write stuff down. Whatever the magic is, it works for me. Thanks Natalie!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catharine Bramkamp

    The Latest and Greatest of Goldberg's books - I stood in line for this, and loved her all over again. Seeing my hero, Natalie Goldberg and buying her latest book. I once wanted to fly immediately To New Mexico For days and days Of communing and being Because she was so compelling and sure I would sit and listen to the master listen to my mind Drink a glass of water with attention earn to meditate and walk and write I would love a week of only Meditate, Walk, Write It’s the secret To greater things, bette The Latest and Greatest of Goldberg's books - I stood in line for this, and loved her all over again. Seeing my hero, Natalie Goldberg and buying her latest book. I once wanted to fly immediately To New Mexico For days and days Of communing and being Because she was so compelling and sure I would sit and listen to the master listen to my mind Drink a glass of water with attention earn to meditate and walk and write I would love a week of only Meditate, Walk, Write It’s the secret To greater things, better living, a full life Mediate, Walk, Write. She loved her work Tonight described days spent In total silence Meditate, Walk, Write And I listened closely to the guru The woman I adored And realized that her way All that meditate (ing) walk (ing) write (ing) Made my whole body Vibrate with anticipated pre-resistance The secret of writing Is knowing What is worth the cost of a plane ticket And what is worth the price of a book meditate, walk, write For me Just Write.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, was the first book I read about writing. How easy this is! I thought. It set me on the road to daily writing, a road I’ve walked every day for over thirty years. How could I resist Goldberg’s latest, The True Secret of Writing? I could not. And I’m glad I couldn’t. Chatty, with the same confident voice as Writing Down the Bones, and filled with little anecdotes that emphasize the ease and worth of writing, The True Secret of Writing is an excellent Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, was the first book I read about writing. How easy this is! I thought. It set me on the road to daily writing, a road I’ve walked every day for over thirty years. How could I resist Goldberg’s latest, The True Secret of Writing? I could not. And I’m glad I couldn’t. Chatty, with the same confident voice as Writing Down the Bones, and filled with little anecdotes that emphasize the ease and worth of writing, The True Secret of Writing is an excellent book for anyone who writes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    Lovely, earnest, peaceful. Excellent reading guide in Appendix I. I've been flirting with meditation as a way to address anxiety and claustrophobia - I hadn't considered how it may benefit me as a writer. I loved her exploration of Hemingway's value as a writer. It seems fashionable nowadays to diss his writing. More's the pity. Don't look for any great revelations here-this isn't a writing how-to. It's a meditation on the writing life. Lovely, earnest, peaceful. Excellent reading guide in Appendix I. I've been flirting with meditation as a way to address anxiety and claustrophobia - I hadn't considered how it may benefit me as a writer. I loved her exploration of Hemingway's value as a writer. It seems fashionable nowadays to diss his writing. More's the pity. Don't look for any great revelations here-this isn't a writing how-to. It's a meditation on the writing life.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Louden

    There is so much good in Natalie's work and being. I enjoyed her voice and ideas in this book, and loved reading about Mabel Dodge where I have also taught writing for 11 years, and in the end I was left a bit underwhelmed by the book. If you are a huge fan, read this, if not, read her earlier works especially Writing Down the Bones and Long Quiet Highway. If you wish to retreat with Natalie, read this to get an idea of the tone of her retreats and what to expect. There is so much good in Natalie's work and being. I enjoyed her voice and ideas in this book, and loved reading about Mabel Dodge where I have also taught writing for 11 years, and in the end I was left a bit underwhelmed by the book. If you are a huge fan, read this, if not, read her earlier works especially Writing Down the Bones and Long Quiet Highway. If you wish to retreat with Natalie, read this to get an idea of the tone of her retreats and what to expect.

  13. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Penn

    Fantastic - I need a writing retreat :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    "Life is not a commodity and is not singular but full of diversity." (p.ix) "Including writing practice in your daily life cits through repetitious, obsessive thinking. Writing down those scenarios, pouring out your immediate thoughts on the page, either wipes them out- they're said, done, expressed- or helps you make sense of them, integrating them into your synapses and muscles." (p.xii) "'When we listen to each other read, we are studying mind. Not good or bad,' I say. We get to hear the burnin "Life is not a commodity and is not singular but full of diversity." (p.ix) "Including writing practice in your daily life cits through repetitious, obsessive thinking. Writing down those scenarios, pouring out your immediate thoughts on the page, either wipes them out- they're said, done, expressed- or helps you make sense of them, integrating them into your synapses and muscles." (p.xii) "'When we listen to each other read, we are studying mind. Not good or bad,' I say. We get to hear the burning, roving thoughts of the people we are sitting with. Reading and listening brings us out of ourselves and we feel relief. We are not crazy. Others have all these wild thoughts, too. Sharing opens compassion and alleviates isolation. I am not alone." (p.xiii) "Literature tells us something real about our lives and reveals an aspect of awake, alive mind." (p.xiv) "To find your writer's voice is to find your spine; it is to connect your breath of inspiration to the world's breath." (p.xvi) "It is lay Zen; sitting and then stepping out into the suffering of the world- of Auschwitz, the Congo, Native Americans, your friends and family. It is also catching a taste of joy- and lucky fun- that are possible." (p.xvii) "I know the important part is to keep showing up, not the 'where' I get to. To slow walk, to keep meditation practice. Most of all I am reminded to let go. To let go of self-judgement. All people have something of value to voice." (p.xvii) "We think of it as no big deal, we who are lucky to be literate. Slaves were forbidden to learn to read or write. Slave owners were afraid to think of these people as human. To read and to write is to be empowered. No shackle can ultimately hold you." (p.3) "Some people know at an early age they want to write; for some it is obvious to everyone else- usually they are mad for reading- but it takes a long time for the understanding to bleed through to them." (p.6) "To know this groundless truth and yet not to become desolate, disillusioned, fatalistic. To come right up against the emptiness of the notion of a solid self, a solid existence, a solid thought, and be willing to taste its true transitory nature. There is nothing to hold on to." (p.13) "Death comes to all of us. Each situation is different, but it comes. The suffering comes when we don't accept death. The pain is real...the suffering comes when we fight the naked ache, try to push it away, make it different than it is." (p.15) "We don't know when our death will come. To understand this is to make our breath more vital. We are alive now. How good it is to breathe." (p.15) "Let the world come home to you." (p.18) "It's good to do ridiculous things. Please, not on the highway." (p.19) "Take encouragement from whatever is around you." (p.25) "You don't *do* happiness. You receive it. It's like a water table under the earth. Available to everyone but we can only tap it, have it run up through us, with our stillness. A well that darted around could never draw water." (p.32) "...her therapist said 'Enjoy your grief. You'll miss it when it's gone.' Can you imagine that? To be in the heart of your life whatever your heart holds." (p.34) "Our lives are not linear. We get lost, then we get found. Patience is important, and a large tolerance for our mistakes. We don't become anything overnight." (p.38) "Struggling with something, failing has great effect- a gap opens, you realize you don't know everything- a little emptiness forms where you can receive something." (p.40) "...we established a different slant to practice other than "practice makes perfect": It's something you choose on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it. You show up whether you want to or not....That's ultimately what practice is: arriving at the front-and back door- of yourself. You set up to do something consistently over a long period of time- and simply watch what happens with no idea of good or bad, gain or loss. No applause-and no criticism." (p.41) "But always remember as you learn this specific practice, that it is ot only for us. It is also beyond us- to stretch and extend us in service to the world." (p.57) "You can fill your whole house with praise, with remembering, honoring, accepting, forgiving. No room anymore? We have to go live outside in nature, its own great altar." (p.61) "Meditating is not an opportunity to be holy or to zone out, but to wake up even if it's to awaken to the ache of the world..." (p.69) "Concentrate on your own peace, then no one can disturb it." (p.79) "You follow the trail of your life and eventually the path reveals itself." (p.90) "You breathe the author's breath when you read the words aloud and you swim in their minds. That is how writing is passed on." (p.97) "What is around you that can be seen? Look. Don't miss it. Right now in early autumn everything is giving itself up, ripe raspberries, last tomatoes, sunflowers, cosmos, squash, chilies, soft air, a slight twtch of cold in the early morning hour before the sun rises, a smell of winter if you turn your head quickly at the corner, vines clinging for the last moment. Everything rising up to meet us. Don't turn your back. Be here, even when it aches. Acknowledge what has been given." (p.104) "For most of us, 'awake' isn't even a quality we look for. We are busy with earning a living, getting good grades, anticipating spring break. Awake is another country; yet it's our job to recognize that country, to realize love of place can be a beginning point, a reflecting back, a map of our longing and hope." (p.113) "There are many ways to meditate. Whatever opens us, softens the heart, makes us alive to this human world and helps us to bear it is our path." (p.172) "Freedom is not rejection, a getting away, but rather a resolution, the sand of our cells settles right down where we are." (p.184) "One heart, two gates. When you touch the depths, your life opens in two directions: personal liberation and a need to help the world." (p.188) "That's how we learn writing, not through intellectualization, but we write through the whole body. Practice is transmitted physically." (p.189) "What was I doing? Living harder for both of us. But nothing helped. Because I wanted to help her, not myself. What else can one do when someone is dying? It's the hardest of all to sit there and let life and death happen no matter how hard you rail or what you cook." (p.199) "I have been pregnant with zero and because of that I could not write." (p.219) "Please, join the ranks of the tried and true. Become a person of peace. When you practice, you stop causing trouble for everyone else." (p.223)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    I'd forgotten how much I like Natalie Goldberg's voice. This was worth reading--many ideas for myself and to bring to my students. I'd forgotten how much I like Natalie Goldberg's voice. This was worth reading--many ideas for myself and to bring to my students.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Based on the book jacket blurb, I had different expectations for the content of this book. It states: "The True Secret is for everyone, like eating and sleeping. It allows you to discover something real about your life, to mine the rich awareness in your mind, and to ground and empower yourself." The basis of Goldberg's system is a silent Zen-based retreat in which you "sit, walk, write". The focus of the retreats is on delving into your inner mind to decide how to write about it. There seems to Based on the book jacket blurb, I had different expectations for the content of this book. It states: "The True Secret is for everyone, like eating and sleeping. It allows you to discover something real about your life, to mine the rich awareness in your mind, and to ground and empower yourself." The basis of Goldberg's system is a silent Zen-based retreat in which you "sit, walk, write". The focus of the retreats is on delving into your inner mind to decide how to write about it. There seems to be little or no nuts and bolts advice on how to write, i.e. how to structure your story, how to organize transitions, how to write dialogue, etc. Goldberg believes that everyone should write and that her job is to spread the writing gospel. In the chapter titled "What is Writing Practice", she lists what to do: 1) keep your hand moving, 2) feel free to write the worst junk in America, 3) be specific, and 4) lose control. This as close as she comes to giving pragmatic writing advice in this book. Goldberg also states that "practice awakens the force in us." She believes that through a commitment to the continuous practice of writing, we can awaken the inner muse and perfect the craft of writing. A lot of the book is devoted to describing how her retreats work - the zen-like practice of "sit, walk, write". Apparently, this system really works for some, as she claims to have many return customers. I'm just not convinced that it would work for me, and found most of those sections of the book rather boring, so I skimmed through. In the chapter titled "Write with the Whole Body", she says "...in the middle of a silent retreat, where we had been sitting for a good part of the morning,..." This isn't writing, this is just silent meditation. By this point in the book (p. 189), I had concluded that the book is more about meditation than writing. If I wanted to learn about meditation practices, I would have sought out a book on that subject ! I've been reading "how to" writing books off and on for years, and from each I'm usually draw a few tidbits of practical advice. I did get a bit of advice from this book, but certainly didn't find my "true secret". Nevertheless, I'm sure this system of retreats based on sitting, walking and writing will work for some. There are many ways to unleash the writer within all of us, which is why there are so many writing guides out there. Comment Comment | Permalink

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fenris

    I could not put this down. It actually inspired me to acquire some notebooks and start writing my thoughts in them. I've wanted to write a memoir for a long time, but more importantly I need space in my mind to think again. A lifetime of trauma has changed me and I know I have things to say that could help others navigate their own traumatic experiences. But I'm not ready to put it all together, which is why this book is so important to me. It provides a method which will, over time, allow our t I could not put this down. It actually inspired me to acquire some notebooks and start writing my thoughts in them. I've wanted to write a memoir for a long time, but more importantly I need space in my mind to think again. A lifetime of trauma has changed me and I know I have things to say that could help others navigate their own traumatic experiences. But I'm not ready to put it all together, which is why this book is so important to me. It provides a method which will, over time, allow our thoughts to find their way to the page and in turn heal us. Or me. The basic premise is sit, walk, write. Be present, reduce noise or consider practicing silence. Listen to the natural world, pay attention. Sitting means to meditate, something I've done in the past but stopped doing as my world fell apart. My thoughts are too painful and I did not want to think them. Walking means to get up, and walk mindfully, gently, feeling each step and focusing on the movement. It's like meditation but in motion. Write is exactly what it sounds like. Just write. Write about anything and everything. I will be returning to this book again and again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    A.M.

    Written 25 years after “writing down the bones’ it is far more concerned with death and growing old, which is understandable as the author is in her sixties now. She lost her mentor a long time ago but now she writes of her experience losing family, friends, lovers and students. Typically, one student leaves it until she is dying of cancer to write her book. [My procrastination hears that, I tell ya.] It’s filled with beautiful writing, short zen poems and small bubbles of her life. The second part Written 25 years after “writing down the bones’ it is far more concerned with death and growing old, which is understandable as the author is in her sixties now. She lost her mentor a long time ago but now she writes of her experience losing family, friends, lovers and students. Typically, one student leaves it until she is dying of cancer to write her book. [My procrastination hears that, I tell ya.] It’s filled with beautiful writing, short zen poems and small bubbles of her life. The second part details the steps (one in each section) that she puts a class through in her ‘true secret’ writing retreats. They are zen based - it is the central tenet of her life. Along with words of course. The third part lists writing exercises. The six word memoirs really hit me. 24 addresses but still no home Ouch. Inspiring, touching and heartfelt, it was a lovely read. And the list of books to read before retreats is a power list of literature. 5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    Not a writing manual in the way of the classic Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, but I find Goldberg's voice like a cool cloth on a fevered brow. I read a chapter each day at lunch and felt my blood pressure drop as I was reminded why I do this writing thing. Not a writing manual in the way of the classic Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, but I find Goldberg's voice like a cool cloth on a fevered brow. I read a chapter each day at lunch and felt my blood pressure drop as I was reminded why I do this writing thing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia L.

    To FIND YOUR WRITER'S VOICE IS TO FIND YOUR SPINE. don't skate on the surface, Natalie Goldberg doesn't. To FIND YOUR WRITER'S VOICE IS TO FIND YOUR SPINE. don't skate on the surface, Natalie Goldberg doesn't.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I love me some Natalie Goldberg but I would rather have re-read one of her other books rather than read this one. It felt disjointed and didn't offer anything new beyond her classics. I love me some Natalie Goldberg but I would rather have re-read one of her other books rather than read this one. It felt disjointed and didn't offer anything new beyond her classics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alison Smith

    Natalie Goldberg expounding (again) on the art of writing. But: she does it well & I'm a fan. Natalie Goldberg expounding (again) on the art of writing. But: she does it well & I'm a fan.

  23. 5 out of 5

    C

    Crossposted at my website, www.codyhamrick.com I discovered Natalie Goldberg in high school when I read a copy of her first book, Writing Down the Bones. As a young person who wanted to write, it was freeing to read that you didn’t have to write in order to please someone or be published; all you had to do was grab a pen and paper and write. Pure and simple. After Bones, I read three more of her books before moving onto other authors, and I stopped keeping up with her work. Recently, I stumbled a Crossposted at my website, www.codyhamrick.com I discovered Natalie Goldberg in high school when I read a copy of her first book, Writing Down the Bones. As a young person who wanted to write, it was freeing to read that you didn’t have to write in order to please someone or be published; all you had to do was grab a pen and paper and write. Pure and simple. After Bones, I read three more of her books before moving onto other authors, and I stopped keeping up with her work. Recently, I stumbled across her page on Goodreads and noticed that while I had been reading elsewhere, Natalie was still writing and publishing. It’s funny how writers do that. This 2013 book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life and Language is a description of the writing retreat of the same name that she hosts. Don’t worry, it doesn’t contain bottled down “do this and you will be published” trash advice, despite what the title seems to imply. In fact, early in the book Natalie states that there is no true secret of writing that works for everyone. Like most of Goldberg’s books, True Secret discusses Zen Buddhism and how the spiritual implications of both the practice of Zen and writing are interwoven for Natalie. It also covers the overarching philosophy of Sit, Walk, Write that she uses in the retreat. As I understand it, sitting and slow walking are more traditional forms of Zen meditation. Writing (specifically, the type of timed freewriting described in her works) is a form of practice developed by her. For the most part, the book doesn’t cover any ground that her previous book on writing haven’t already. If you are new to her writing, I would start with her earlier works, as I think they lay out her approach to writing in a more straightforward way--particularly Writing Down the Bones. However, True Secret was still a joy to read. Seeing the author once again tackle the same themes she describes so well was like listening to an old friend tell a story that you’ve heard numerous times before but still love the telling of it. I came away with a renewed drive to continue my own writing. The last section of the book contains some of its best writing, particularly the chapter Gwen, an account of one of Natalie’s students who is dying of cancer. It strikes me that Natalie’s books contain chapters (each one a self contained essay, really) that are so scattered. There is a chapter about assigning chores to the retreat students, another about what it’s like to try writing at the same time in the same place every day for a week, and then a moving chapter about what it means to live fully before dying. Yet the book still forms a cohesive whole. Her books are like boxes of chocolate. Each little section needs to hold a piece for the box to be complete, and yet each chocolate is its own individual delicacy. Hopefully, Natalie will continue to follow her own advice of sitting, walking, and writing. Hopefully, we will get to keep reading the books that come from this practice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Abby Larkins

    Natalie Goldberg has a way of making you feel like you've attended a therapy session and a creative writing class in one sitting. She has so many useful, freeing insights on life and how to capture your existence. The Zen aspect of the book was hit or miss with me depending on the chapter. Sometimes her message was lost on me, but she assures the reader that the evasive nature of Zen practice is normal and it's only human of us not to feel "it" at all times--and it's the same with writing. She j Natalie Goldberg has a way of making you feel like you've attended a therapy session and a creative writing class in one sitting. She has so many useful, freeing insights on life and how to capture your existence. The Zen aspect of the book was hit or miss with me depending on the chapter. Sometimes her message was lost on me, but she assures the reader that the evasive nature of Zen practice is normal and it's only human of us not to feel "it" at all times--and it's the same with writing. She just wants to open your mind to the possibility of that moment of magic, when your inner, real self suddenly steps into the light. One of the main things I'm taking from this book is breaking through the resistance. Natalie says, "Do it. In the face of all inner--and outer--resistance and opposition, just write. Pick up the pen and face yourself." It's that hard and that easy. This goes along with my breakthrough I had about the term "writing practice". Natalie sums it up, "It's something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it. You show up whether you want to or not". How freeing is that? How inconsequential yet momentous. She's so convincing. If anything, Natalie has made me realize that devotion is will over emotion (I view religion the same way). You do not write only when you feel like it, just as you should not worship God and pray only when you feel like it. If you are devoted to your craft, to your God, to your mind, to your religion, you will show up and practice regardless of your emotions or your laziness or your appetite. You do it because you've committed to it. So here's to breaking through the laziness of being a human being and holding tight to the glimmering, brighter things inside us and around us.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

    I should have known better after reading Writing Down the Bones. This book did not offer much different. It was also a mix of stream of consciousness and zen and contained tales of the author's writing retreats. Whilst it is always good to be mindful of what you are writing and how you get to your writing head space, this felt like 250 pages of repetition. I found it very boring and skimmed a lot of it because I simply was not interested in reading about the author's health problems or digestion I should have known better after reading Writing Down the Bones. This book did not offer much different. It was also a mix of stream of consciousness and zen and contained tales of the author's writing retreats. Whilst it is always good to be mindful of what you are writing and how you get to your writing head space, this felt like 250 pages of repetition. I found it very boring and skimmed a lot of it because I simply was not interested in reading about the author's health problems or digestion issues, or that they managed to sit down and write for 20 mins each day for x amount of days, quoted like this for over a page: Date: wrote for 20 mins. Date: skipped. Date: skipped. Date: wrote for 20 mins in a coffee shop. Date: went for a walk, sat and wrote for 25 mins. Date: skipped. There were several scattered portions with examples of student's work during retreats, which I also found boring and a blab of words on a page. The kind of stuff you write during a practice and generally keep to yourself or to a class, not expect to see published. I did not enjoy reading about a random person's 5 min exercise writing about the word 'spoon' or a sardine tin. I suppose I should not be too judgmental, some people may enjoy that kind of thing, it just wasn't for me...again.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nic

    I will preface this review by saying that I really enjoyed Natalie Goldberg's book "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" and have recommended it to other friends that write. This book left me with a completely different feeling. I think the moment when I really wanted to stop reading was the moment I read the line: "Each week that I teach I place on the altar a photo of Shiki, the great Haiku writer, an invalid, who dragged himself to the the edge of the tatami mat, overlooking his I will preface this review by saying that I really enjoyed Natalie Goldberg's book "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" and have recommended it to other friends that write. This book left me with a completely different feeling. I think the moment when I really wanted to stop reading was the moment I read the line: "Each week that I teach I place on the altar a photo of Shiki, the great Haiku writer, an invalid, who dragged himself to the the edge of the tatami mat, overlooking his garden, where he sat all day wating to receive a Haiku" The jarring use of the word "invalid" in a book published in 2013 which purports to be about both the importance of writing (and by extension language use) mixed with Zen Buddhism left me suddenly cold. I persevered to extract any useful writing activities but as a person with a disability there is something intensely offensive about the term and put me off the book entirely.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie M

    Can't help but LOVE Natalie Goldberg - been reading her books for almost 30 years. She's so HUMAN, so ACCESSIBLE. The True Secret of Writing was especially good because I was in New Mexico when I read the bulk of it (her home turf). And she had many references to writing seminars, locales, people and landscapes I was familiar with. Not to mention Mpls-her 'other home' for severl years in the 1980's & 90's. Goldberg still makes me want to write for pure writing's sake, for the pleasure and gratif Can't help but LOVE Natalie Goldberg - been reading her books for almost 30 years. She's so HUMAN, so ACCESSIBLE. The True Secret of Writing was especially good because I was in New Mexico when I read the bulk of it (her home turf). And she had many references to writing seminars, locales, people and landscapes I was familiar with. Not to mention Mpls-her 'other home' for severl years in the 1980's & 90's. Goldberg still makes me want to write for pure writing's sake, for the pleasure and gratification of it, and not for publication and status! Which are, it must be noted, what society regards as 'success'!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    Much less than I'd hope for, from Natalie Goldberg. There were a few wry comments in the beginning about focus and discipline and intention, but then it became a long string of anecdotes about her upper-middle-class hippie retreat in the Southwest US. Which, I guess, is fascinating if you're thinking about buying property down there, because there were a lot of details about land formations and stores. But I was hoping for writing advice, so anyone like me can pick through the first third of the Much less than I'd hope for, from Natalie Goldberg. There were a few wry comments in the beginning about focus and discipline and intention, but then it became a long string of anecdotes about her upper-middle-class hippie retreat in the Southwest US. Which, I guess, is fascinating if you're thinking about buying property down there, because there were a lot of details about land formations and stores. But I was hoping for writing advice, so anyone like me can pick through the first third of the book like the third day of rotisserie chicken and then safely return it to the library.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate Mildew

    Stopped reading this book after the retelling of a story about an “ethnic joke” a term she uses twice. She then puts in brackets (Chinese) so you know who the “ethnic joke” is mocking. The story is not about this being offensive, it’s in there as a joke. Very disappointing for a book published in 2013. Even more disappointing for a book that is a repackaging of knowledge and practices from East Asia.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    It has been awhile since I read a book by Natalie Goldberg and I had forgotten how much I enjoy her voice. I have been looking to beginning a writing practice again and I really enjoy the way Goldberg does this. This also has good writing ideas and just a deep way of getting into your skin and sinking deep. The idea of being settled into your skin to write well and meaningfully and not rushing this process is important.

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