Natalie Goldberg, Live

Last week I took a writing workshop from Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones. The book opened the world of creativity to thousands of writers who began to keep journals and write as a practice of creativity, understanding, and introspective exploration. She has written eight other books as well.

This course, on memoir-writing, was taught through the Sedona Art Center, and held at the Sedona Creative Life Center. The class was almost totally unlike what I expected. I had a vague vision of sitting around tables with older women, all of us discussing writing.

Instead, Natalie sat in the front of a sacred-space-like room and the class (close to 100 men and women of all ages) sat, theater–style in the room. She encouraged us to move the chairs until we were comfortable, and proceeded to lead us through a series of writing exercises that brought out amazing sentences, phrases, details and ideas. For example, she would give us ten minutes to complete the sentence, “I remember. . .” We were not to stop writing till she told us, and we were not to edit or cross out words. You’d think you wouldn’t be able to start, but most of us weren’t able to stop!

She called on volunteers to read what they had written and made supportive comments. If you didn’t want to read, you didn’t have to. We wrote by ourselves and in groups. We wrote with her prompt s and with ones we made up. We did 10-minute writings and one-minute writings. We read our writing out loud, but we didn’t comment on anyone else’s writing. We just listened.

The writing sessions were interspersed with Zen-based meditation. She taught us how to focus on breathing and the separation from the frantic world most of us inhabit allowed us to write more clearly and directly.

Natalie is engaging, interesting, and a relaxed teacher who can pack a great deal of learning into an easy, non-stressed week. This group discovered our own talent, ability and enthusiasm for writing. Do the same and take one of her workshops.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who is currently developing online and in-person journal-writing classes, including Journaling for Perfectionists, Wabi-Sabi Journaling and One-Take Journaling. Contact Quinn to get on the notification list for her journal-writing classes.

6 thoughts on “Natalie Goldberg, Live

  1. I went and listened to her read at Powell’s in Portland…she has long been a favorite. Glad you enjoyed her class…I have always wondered what they would be like.

  2. I love Writing Down the Bones – I have it on tape and love to hear her running commentary on who she was when she wrote the book and who she is as she reads the book to create the book on tape.

    What a great experience!

  3. Jackie–I’m absolutely sure Natalie teaches who she is. It was a wonderful experience from every aspect. The Creative Life Center, where the program was held, also took excellent care of us. Natalie has about 8 books out, and they are all worth reading. I just finished The Great Failure and purchased Banana Rose (her first novel, I think) and Wild Mind at the class.

  4. I have taken two courses with Natalie, one in Sedona and one in Taos. Zen is an important aspect of Natalie’s life so it’s not about physical location, the meditation. Anyone interested in exploring writing should take a course with her; the weekend course is a great length to beging to understand that you have something in you that can be released under Natalie’ tutelege. It is a very special experience. Also look into Quiet Mind and Thunder and Lightening.

  5. This sounds like something I would really enjoy doing- a writing course with a great teacher in a Southwest setting like Sedona. It’s great that she included the Zen meditations, but maybe when you’re in Sedona, it’s required? 🙂 I read Writing Down the Bones many years ago and probably should read it again. Will you be writing more about this course and your experiences?

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