Writing as a lifetime relationship – it’s no McDonald’s burger

I’ve always read a lot. I started at school reading mostly romantic novels and later on progressed to self-help books in between a steady stream of Terry Pratchett fantasies and crime novels. I scaled down a bit when I noticed my eyes didn’t appreciate the constant pressure and I realised that I used reading as an avoidance mechanism.

Anyhow, depending on your choice of reading material you might find yourself thinking that you could have written the story better or you might think that you could never write as good. And as a result stop writing all together.

But instead of this type of black or white thinking about writing, I’ve since realised that writing means different things to different people. For some, it may be to tell stories and play around with language. For others, writing may be the instrument used to expose the truth and mobilise people to action. For some, it is the tool to express their innermost thoughts in skilfully crafted poems. For others, it is a way of manipulating others to buy things they don’t need. Most of us think of writing in terms of books, plays, newspapers, dramas and volumes of poetry.

These things are good and well. But they are fleeting. Natalie Goldberg argues in Writing down the Bones that we should have a larger vision for writing. Writing is a lifetime relationship, she says and writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate. Writing then becomes a way in which to know yourself better. Explore yourself and your life.

Goldberg suggests that one practises writing. Write every day. Give yourself five minutes a day. Or more. And just write whatever comes up. No punctuation necessary. Spelling mistakes allowed. No editing and rethinking and reworking. Just get it down. It need not be perfect. You need not know what you are going to write beforehand. Just write.

Writing is not a McDonald’s hamburger. The cooking is slow, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a roast or a banquet or a lamb chop will be the result. – Natalie Goldberg