Nat’s Second Rule


“Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something—“I really want to be a writer”—then that little voice comes along, “but I might not make enough money as a writer.” “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don’t be tossed away. But part of not being tossed away is understanding your mind, not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections and then loads you with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something.”

Natalie Goldberg




Photo by Cristina Gottardi

“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Natalie Goldberg recommends that you listen carefully to dialogue and speech when you are in public places. Yes, it’s eavesdropping. But it’s also professional development. You’re not listening to be nosy. You’re listening so that you can be a better writer. Listen carefully to cadences, slang, vocabulary and observe mannerisms, facial expressions and reaction times.

How do people reveal themselves? What are they wearing? What does disappointment look like? What about fear? Joy?

Writers are keen observers. Dialogue is part of honesty that Lamott mentioned in chapter one of Bird by Bird.

The more accurate you are about observing and recording, the more authentic your story will be.




Fierce – adj., 3. Furiously Eager and Intense

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in San Francisco and wanted to be a writer. To be a good writer, you have to read a lot. I was forever changed when I read Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. In it is a passage about feeling “wild” while you sit calmly, writing. I completely identified with this! I made up my mind to have a Wild Mind from then on.

Being “wild” mentally naturally helps my writing and my creativity. However, I noticed that when I feel sluggish physically, I am pretty dull inside, too. So I force myself to exercise. Believe me, I am never excited about lacing up the work out shoes. But I make it a habit. I get my shoes on, turn Jillian on (the DVD, not her…) and I go to town. It’s hard. I sweat. I look forward to it ending. But I do it. And when I’m done, I feel SO GOOD (not just because it’s over). The endorphins kick in and I feel more energized and positive. I am on top of the world!

On some Sundays, I like to go roller skating. I’m almost as fast as Apolo Ohno. This gives me a great high, too. I feel fierce.

Image result for apolo ohno skating

What makes you feel ferocious? What can you do to make it a habit?





Writing Accountability

Having a hard time getting regular about writing?

Natalie Goldberg suggests you hook up with a fellow (local) writer. Tell her/him that you’ll meet ’em at the local coffee shop at 3pm. When they say they can’t meet, stop them and say, “No, no. I don’t want to know whether you’ll be there or not. I will go and write whether you’re there or not.” You continue this way: email, text, call your friend and make a writing date and keep it no matter what.


You could also blog or publish your work every day and tell everyone you know that you’ll be publishing daily. Believe me, there’s nothing like being held publicly accountable!

Seth Godin has excellent tips on doing this. In fact, I started writing my blog again (following a long absence) after reading about his philosophy. Godin encourages you to write every day – even badly – because it will get your brain working to think crisply, analytically, every day. You notice things more. He’s right!

seth godin

And if that monkey mind starts to chatter (“This isn’t good… people won’t like this, etc.”) tell that monkey that it is far easier to criticize than to create!

A Great Tip from Natalie Goldberg and Kate Green

Just came home from a long weekend trip to Mexico (Rocky Point). Knowing it would be a busy one, (hanging out with my family, a friend and her wedding party), I was realistic in packing books. I packed just one. This one:

downloadLots of great tips from one of the pioneer writers of writing practice, Natalie Goldberg. I wanted to share one that resonated with me.

When you work on a story, make the structure your own. That is, don’t feel confined by an outline or drafting device you learned in school or in a workshop, but make the structure yourself and fill it with wildness! Natalie Goldberg grew up with very little structure, but learned about self-discipline and “harnessing the mind” through meditation practice. Goldberg cites friend and fellow writer Kate Green’s technique for writing Shattered Moon (Edgar Allen Poe award winner) this way (p. 50):

She decided the novel would have thirty chapters; there had to be action in each chapter, and she would set it up so that when readers came to the end of the chapter, they’d want to go on to the next.

It sounds mechanical, but Kate explains that she actually does a lot of writing practice, journaling, sketching ideas, scenes, and research in a notebook, planning it out anywhere between three months to a year before she sits down to write it.

Finally, as a single mom of three children and a working mom (teacher), she addresses the time issue. “Time to write is just that. An hour here, a half hour there. Go. Move pen. That’s it. The rest is all bullshit and I know it but I get caught up in it and create a lot of suffering around not writing. Writing itself is pretty simple. Just do it.”

Ok. Now go. Do it!