Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Screaming on the Page

"[T]he one thing I want for you is to recognize when you are really singing in writing practice and honor that. Trust that. When you were screaming on the page. Maybe that doesn't make a whole book but that is the true seed." - Natalie Goldberg

Sometimes I see what Natalie's talking about in a student in my class. A writer entranced in her work leans forward, pen scribbling, face intent. Strong nouns and active verbs spew from her pen. And when she reads, it's the same thing. The look on her face shows she is surprised at how good it is, how apt the phrasing, how appropriate the descriptions are to the situation. She looks up, amazed at what came from her heart and onto the page.

She's not thinking when she writes from that place. It's beyond thought. It's just fingers and images. There's nothing in between, no separation between what she sees in her mind and how the words flow onto the page.

Sometimes it feels clunky as she writes it. Sometimes it is fluid. She never knows which it will be until she reads. The brain is a great trickster. It wants her to be confused. The brain knows, but is afraid for her. It wants her to stay far from the fire inside. It wants to protect her, but in doing so, it shields her from her own great power.

The brain will try to nullify the words before they can be spoken. It will reprimand even as the hand keeps moving across the page and the words wind out in long sinewy rows looping and lilting without regard to the lines. The heart remembers how. It knows what it's like to be free on the page. It knows how to open a throat and let it howl until the sound reaches the paper.

And so the key, still, decades after Natalie first said it, is the same. Keep your hand moving. Keep your hand moving. Keep your hand moving.

Do you remember what it feels like to scream on the page? Have you ever sung in writing practice? I'd love to hear about it.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I truly feel that way.

Portia Periwinkle said...

The odd thing was that I never knew work was any good until I read it out loud. Sometimes it seemed whiney or self serving, but read out it would have fire. One piece I did was so sad for me I could hardly read it at all. Yet when it ended everyone laughed.
So I guess, my comment is don't trust your negative thoughts. Read it out loud, even if you're alone, and then shelve it and check it out later.
Barbara

Magnus Pym said...

Okay, so I am not a screamer. But today when I was blogging on behalf of Magnus (my English Bulldog) I was cracking up. I was reading the draft aloud and I couldn't stop giggling. I was at the Apple store with many people mingling about. I am sure they were confused but it was fun! Writing rocks! Thanks for reminding me that the only way I can get the experience of cracking myself up like that is by actually putting fingertips to the keyboard and making them click clack. Hugs to you Nita and Cowlumbus all, I miss you!

Nita said...

Barbara - Thanks for the reminder to read it out loud! This is an excellent tool. It helps me find mistakes I wouldn't have caught otherwise and it helps me see that there is magic in there too.

Magnus Pym - I love the image of you cracking up in the Apple Store! Cowlumbus misses you too!

Jennifer Combs said...

Nita, I opened up your blog and this is what it opened to. This is absolutely what happens for me when I write, It just comes, I rarely can make it and when I try it sounds like it. It is only when I let myself be totally consumed by my writing, that I feel like it is written well. It is because it comes from the heart that way and is not simply a bunch of words manufactured and put in order on the page. I surprise myself quite often that way and many times find myself saying "yeah, that is good! That is exactly what I wanted to say"! Thanks for writing about it so I could find it and totally relate to it. This makes me feel good!