by Allison Marie Conway
Art & Soul
It’s okay, I do it, too. Even the most seasoned writers admit that they have to remind themselves over and over at the beginning of any writing project or piece how to start fresh. Each time we sit down to write is a new beginning and this is at once frightening and freeing. But the one thing we must stop doing if we want writing that is real, vulnerable, dangerous, true, meaningful and pulsing with delicious energy is being so damn polite.
Now then, I’m not suggesting you march out into the village square (village square?) and start screaming obscenities at innocent women and children, but what I am saying is we need to follow the forthcoming advice to the letter if we want to get anywhere worth going in our writing. In the brilliant and timeless treasure titled Writing Down the Bones, author Natalie Goldberg shares the secret to “burning through to first thoughts” which are “the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel.”
But the good writing—the beautifully dangerous, cutting edge, electric writing—comes from first thoughts, the ego-less raw truth of what we think and feel.
The idea is that what lives on the surface of our manic minds are actually third and fourth thoughts, the things we layer on top of our true thoughts and feelings in order to make them more polite or socially acceptable. But the good writing—the beautifully dangerous, cutting edge, electric writing—comes from first thoughts. The thoughts that live closest to the bone.
So this week I’m challenging myself to follow these 6 rules from Writing Down the Bones for getting at my juiciest stuff. Are you up for it, too? Cool, here we go:
This is the kind of writing I believe we need to get back to in our regular practice. The first thoughts, the ego-less raw truth of what we think and feel. My suspicion is that there is one thing that keeps us from really delving in and that is that we are terrified that whatever we put down, we are forever. That if we write something that scares us because it is so real then we cannot recover and move on from it.
But as Ms. Goldberg would also have us remember: we are not the poem.
There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.
In that same vein, I love it when a lesson comes full circle and you start to see signs of its truth around you almost everywhere. As I was contemplating this idea of burning past being so polite in censoring my own first thoughts and feelings, and the worry I seemed to have that if I wrote it down I had to be it forever, I came across this same biting truth explained by the fiery Janne Robinson.
I adore the liberation in her first line, “A poem is a moment.”
As you are writing, I hope you will give yourself the freedom to get to the real stuff, the truth inside.
So this week as you are writing and creating I hope you will give yourself the freedom to keep moving the pen across the page to get to the real stuff, the truth inside. To stop fighting what is within you and instead accept it, curl into it, become one with it.
And then, when the moment is gone, to just as gracefully and impolitely move on.
Allison Marie Conway has been writing poetry since she was ten years old, and is now the author of two published books. Every Monday she sends out a little love letter to fellow kindred creatives. You can sign up to receive these, and find out more about Allison, at her website.
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