Instead of staring into a cold glow of pixelated light this morning, I kept the computer shuttered away in its desk and sat by the window, where blackness transitioned to grey, and grey blushed warm and pink as dawn approached. I turned on a lamp, pulled Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones from the shelf, and folded my legs underneath me on the couch to write, pen in hand, ink on paper, in a marbled composition book.
I went to bed last night not knowing what I’d write about today, and I woke up in the same state of emptyheadedness. I didn’t know much, but I did know that staring at the same computer screen I stare at every morning at 6am wasn’t going to inspire me. I needed to change things up, to disrupt my routine. To jibe.
While I waited for my coffee, I flipped the pages of Goldberg’s book till I found an exercise that looked easy. Page 87. Lots of empty space with two lists of words. One list nouns. One list verbs. Sweet! I like lists.
The exercise, entitled “The Action of a Sentence,” instructs you to fold a piece of paper in half. I did this in my composition book. On the left side, write a list of ten nouns. I wrote:
On the right, write a list of ten verbs. Goldberg actually instructs you to “Think of an occupation; for example a carpenter, a doctor, a flight attendant,” and then write verbs that accompany that occupation. I missed that part though (remember, no coffee yet?) and just wrote some verbs:
Then? Put your nouns and verbs together in sentences, and voilà! You are writing.
A stiff wind peeled fresh dogwood petals from their branches.
With velvet ink, she stitched sentences onto paper.
The cold martini billowed warmth into her belly.
The candelabra draped the room in light, and in shadows.
Chartreuse shoots sliced the black earth, stretched toward the light, and unfurled triumphant cotyledons.
A butterfly jibed, frantic to find shelter as the storm gathered strength.
She thrust the Dutch oven into the coals, angry that he had swindled her. Furious that she had misjudged.
Sunlight sizzled on a sapphire sea.
Her goggles were jostled in the maelstrom of elbows and feet, already leaking two minutes into the open water swim.
Staring out the window, he nicked his knee, tap, tap, tapping it with a sharp, dried fingernail clipping.
This 72 inch geographic relocation, from sitting at the computer to sitting by the window, and the changes that resulted from it – natural light and an incandescent lamp; a paperback (not electronic) writing book, opened to page 87, tented on the couch; my hand moving across paper; lists of nouns and verbs, and the physical action of stitching them together to sew sentences – has electrified me. Has shuffled my synapses.
I feel a high level of productivity coming on.
Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (“Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger,” “Man Eats Car,” “Be an Animal”), will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to. (from Natalie Goldberg’s website)