Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Composting (Some Thoughts)

Natalie Goldberg has this marvelous little chapter in her classic book Writing Down the Bones where she explains the concept of composting. Her contention, and I agree, is that we accumulate a lot of junk throughout our daily lives. Over time, the mind, consciously and subconsciously, will sift through the miry bog, process the information one piece at a time, and then when the time is perfect, a flower will push up through the mess. We have to be ready to water it, to make it grow (translation: be ready to write).

Some writers say the best way to write about a place is to NOT be there. Want to write about the beach? Do it in the dead of winter snow. My friend Pat Conroy wrote his masterpiece The Prince of Tides from Rome. The descriptions of the South Carolina marsh stemmed from his deep longing to be there.

Need to write about your father's passing? An unrequited love? You have to let it sit. You have to let the brain keep turning it. Time will do its thing--doesn't it always? Sometimes this means, doing nothing. Sometimes, it means scribbling your way through journals, waiting for the gems to appear.

In the end, whatever your method, when the flower blooms, you'll be ready for it.

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