In thinking about books that have had an impact on me, I wanted to include at least one book about writing. I didn’t know any writers in my immediate circle growing up, so I turned instead to tracking down books on the topic. And not necessarily dry tomes on grammar and composition, or books with shiny, bold-print titles insisting they know the One True Technique to crafting an Instant Bestseller ™. I’m talking quieter books where one writer shares anecdotes about how they got started writing, what their relationship to the muse is like, the sorts of experiences they had in the industry and what led them to writing certain stories.
I gobbled these books up. I still do. Especially when the well of inspiration is running dry and I can’t quite bring myself to put in the necessary butt-in-chair time, reading the creative experiences of others has often helped me get back on track, and inspired me to put hand to keyboard.
I can list off so many of these books that are definitely worth your while (maybe in a future post, I’ll do just that!). But for now, I want to talk about Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg, which was like a bolt of lightning directly to my college-age writer brain.
Goldberg’s book is a blend of musings on creativity, writing exercises derived from Zen practice, and deeply personal vignettes into her life. She advocates a writing practice that is very stream-of-consciousness, letting the words and images flow without editorial judgment. After reading Wild Mind, I tried my hand at more freestyle journaling, letting the muse take me where she would. I also tried to notice more sensory details about the world around me. Goldberg painted her own experiences so vividly that I felt like I was traveling with her. The summer I read this book, the sunlight seemed brighter, cool fruit smoothies tasted sweeter, and I have never been more in love with the sound and smell of rainy days.
Anne McCaffrey showed me how to build entire worlds out of my own imagination. Natalie Goldberg showed me the world I already lived in, through a new lens.