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Deadline to meet? Go clean that oven….

June 2, 2010

I can see you.

The spray can of heavy duty industrial oven cleaner parked on the kitchen floor is a dead give away. Peel off those rubber gloves, stop pretending that your family will drop dead of food poisoning tonight if you don’t clean those charred meal residues insulating the inside of the oven right away. Follow me. Yes, just as I thought. The study door is ajar. I can see the laptop screen from here. Closer….yes, that’s it. Don’t die of embarrassment, it won’t help. A new document  is open on screen. A title?

(NB – provisional ) Of authorship and toads….

" Of authorship and toads...."

artwork by Paul F. Newman


And ? I suspected this. One paragraph indentation, and the word  “The”……can that really be all ? Oh. There’s a new line.

“ F— this, I might as well be cleaning the oven!!!!”

I have two words to say to you. Pay attention, they really will help, I promise:

Natalie Goldberg.

Some time ago, I visited Glasgow Buddhist Centre in search of a meditation stool. Yes, you’ve guessed, I had an article which had to be in the post by 5pm. I was distracted from the article by the stool, then distracted from the stool by Natalie Goldberg. Her book ” Wild Mind : Living the Writer’s Life” drew me like a lure. What a wonderful writer! What an inspiring book! Did the article get to the postbox? I’m not telling you.

Natalie Goldberg is an American writer  and creative writing teacher. She is sharp, witty, compassionate, lateral….and tough. She has bottom lines and is not afraid to state them. She has rules. My guess is, if you follow these rules on a regular basis, you’ll rarely be distracted by oven cleaning or any other form of housework ever again.

She is fanatical about writing practice. “ If you learn writing practice well, it is a good foundation for all other writing.” We need to do it as regularly as possible, she says.

“When you sit down to write, whether it’s for ten minutes or an hour, once you begin, don’t stop. If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don’t budge. You’ll go out writing.”

In essence, writing practice is a technique for cracking open the confining grip of our conscious, rational mind – and flying free into the big blue sky of what Goldberg calls “wild mind”.

Here, briefly, are Natalie’s rules:

(She also thinks they mostly work for hang gliding, tennis and sex.)

1. Keep your hand moving. If you stop your hand, you stop the creator’s flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.

2. Lose control. Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate. Just go for it.

3. Be specific. Don’t write flower, write narcissus.

4. Don’t think. Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.

5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.

6. You are free to write the worst junk in America ( or in your case, could be anywhere in the world ! )

7. Go for the jugular. Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

There you are. Begin writing practice today. Next step, buy Goldberg’s books on the writers’ craft. They are a wonderful investment. I’m doing well with my writing practice, by the way. I’ve bought two new notebooks. Still can’t decide which one to start….

(slightly edited – first published in the Women Writers’ Network Newsletter June 2004)

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Anne W

Anne Whitaker has written in one context or another all her life, having had many articles and essays published in recent years in contexts as diverse as The Mountain Astrologer (USA), Kindred Spirit (UK) and Scotland’s Sunday Herald. Based in Glasgow in Scotland, she is now focusing on writing, and on running her popular website for writers and readers : “Writing from the Twelfth House.

Her first book “Jupiter meets Uranus” was published in April 2009 by the American Federation of  Astrologers. It is a research study of the Jupiter/Uranus conjunction of  1997, set in its mythological and historical context. She is currently  seeking a publisher for her second book, which is now being serialised on its own website : “Wisps from the dazzling darkness – a sceptic’s take on paranormal experience” .

Contact email: contact.anne.w

Annie would like to thank Anne for stepping in today. She is busy cleaning the oven writing her submission for the new Chinese Whisperings Anthology over the next three weeks.

  1. June 2, 2010 1:54 am

    some great tips here Anne.. thanks for sharing.

  2. June 2, 2010 3:00 am

    Hi Annie

    thanks for featuring this unedifying window into the inadequacies of my domestic life! Hope it gives a few folk a laugh. I used only to do housework when I had a deadline to avoid – I now solve the problem by paying someone else to do the housework and running my own websites so that I only have my deadlines to meet! For some strange reason that seems to work ,without having to go through the distraction route to the same degree….

    Good luck with the Chinese Whisperings….will drop in and have a look.

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