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The Stars And The Sky
Photo by nate rayfield on Unsplash

I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. There’s one passage in which she talks about the conscious mind vs. the wild mind and urges writers to not diddle around our whole lives in the dot (our monkey mind or conscious mind) but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there.

I stopped and hung out for a while at that thought.

Let go of control – surrender the reins. Once a theme or idea starts to unspool, to allow ourselves to follow the thread. Find the end and let it take you. Up into the big sky.

In most parts of my life my tendency is to be neat and organized. To tidy up as I go. When I bake or cook, I’ll often assemble the ingredients beforehand, clean up as I go. And it works. In the kitchen.

But not at my writing desk. Even a short blog post like this.

Not in the beginning of a piece.

An author I know told me how she edits as she goes. In theory, her book is good to go by the time she gets to the last page. I’m going to suggest that the book was percolating in her head for a while, growing, plots materializing and shifting, characters coming and going. The story gradually told itself and the author transcribed it. Now, this in no way minimizes this author’s role in all this. It’s still a lot, a lot of work. But it works for her. She’s good at it. I’ve read her work; it’s magical.

For me, however, this method would trip me up. It would kick my perfectionism into high gear and put me into one of those endless loop processes. You computer folks have a name for that. For the rest of us it’s a descent into a rabbit hole.

Especially in the beginning.

This blog post started with reading Goldberg’s book. Then it came on a walk with me. It got splashed messily onto the page two days later. I let it settle, went for another walk a few days later and came back to it. I tidied it up; did a little organizing. It’s just about good enough. Although I know there will be at least one more pass before you see it.

Its beginning was a leap into the big sky. And that’s how it should be. At least for me.

There’s a poem I love and frequently use as a warm up prompt in my writing circles. “In Spite of Everything, the Stars” by Edward Hirsch. It begins: Like a stunned piano, like a bucket of fresh milk flung into the air or a dozen fists of confetti thrown hard at a bride stepping down from the altar, the stars surprise the sky.

The stars surprise the sky.

How wonderful it would be to feel free enough, to trust my process enough, to loosen my grip on my pen enough and toss my words up into the sky. To startle the heavens and then listen to the sky tell my story. To let word follow word and line follow line and watch as the story unspools from my consciousness onto the page.

That is where I like to begin.

Where do you begin? In your writing, in your projects, in your life?

Schedule a coffee chat with me and let’s talk about beginnings.

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