My Writing Life – The Rules

Here, according to author and teacher Natalie Goldberg, are the rules of writing practice:

1. Keep your hand moving.

2. Don’t cross out.

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

4. Lose control.

5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.

6. You are free to write the worst junk in America.

7. Go for the jugular.

I’ve been enjoying her book Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life lately. My editor brought this book to my attention a few weeks ago; I’m glad she did.

I’ve read Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within and Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir but for some reason I hadn’t heard of Wild Mind, which is odd, because usually when I find a writer I like seek out all of their books.

Perhaps this is the time the book was meant to come into my life.

I like how this book seems to step out into a wild place because, in my own quiet way, I feel like I am in a wild place. I’m in that place of being fifty-two and settling into the woman I was created to be: the one who is wise enough to know when to consider the opinions of others, strong enough to know when to trust I know what’s best for me in that moment, and not afraid to look silly when the occasion warrants.

I like Goldberg’s rules of writing practice.

For someone like me who has lived in the place of being in control to embrace a rule that tells me to lose control is surprising (to me and possibly to others who know me) but I am coming to believe it’s required if one is to tap into that well of creativity inside; I mean really tap in not just flit across the surface like a water strider on a still pond.

And then there’s that jugular. Sometimes you just have to let loose and grab that ol’ jugular and give it a twist; then twist it again. Then give it a snap and say “There, I”m not afraid of you anymore.”

Perhaps then you might be satisfied you’ve conquered whatever it is the jugular represents for you and you might move on and write a gentler, more subdued piece. Or you might write something rich, powerful, filled with truth that will change the way your reader thinks about something.

Either way you win.

Think about it. What rules are you following in writing or in life? Is there value in losing control and going for the metaphorical jugular sometimes?


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. sounds like good advice..

  2. I’m so glad you found WILD MIND. That was the first of Natalie’s books that I read, and I put off reading BONES for ages, thinking that WILD MIND superceded it. NOT! Each of her books is a gem. I especially like LIVING COLOR with the wild way she reinterprets and reassigns color. That’s a powerful way to nudge us to see things differently.

    Great advice. I needed the reminder!

    1. I have not heard of Living Color, Sharon. It’s on my to-read list now though.

  3. “And then there’s that jugular. Sometimes you just have to let loose and grab that ol’ jugular and give it a twist; then twist it again. Then give it a snap and say “There, I”m not afraid of you anymore.””

    That particular line tells me you really have gotten something from this book! Way to go mom! I am so proud of you and this journey you are on!!

    1. Xoxo Laurinda. I am uber proud of the journey you are on too.

  4. Linda,
    I love Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” but never heard of” Wild Mind”. I really needed to hear your pearls of wisdom – “let loose and grab that ol’ juggler and give it a twist.” Thanks for these priceless reminders!

    Write On!

    1. Write on, Kathy!

  5. Looks like a trip to the bookstore is in order!

    1. You won’t be sorry, Becky!

  6. Oh I’m so glad you posted this. I needed it at this moment. Cheers.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I am glad it resonated with you.

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