Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wild Mind

The mind is raw, full of energy, alive and hungry. It does not think in the way we were brought up to think--well-mannered, congenial.
--Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

The great insight Natalie Goldberg drives home in all of her books is how cancerous is it to think too much about your writing, and how too much self-awareness is fatal to your creativity.

I credit her for teaching me about the concept of the inner critic. Every writer has a mental editor inside his or her brain that freezes up our creative side and freezes out our best ideas. "Too risky," it tells us. "No, don't say it so bluntly." Or worst of all: "No. That's stupid."

The first step toward writing well--and, incidentally, the first step toward not hating yourself--is to learn to disregard that part of your mind. Better still, learn to laugh at it. Somehow, you have to develop techniques to disengage the critical, judgmental part of your mind so you can get at the wild and bizarre part of your mind. That's what unleashes all the things that normal adults have forgotten how to do: our ability to play, to brainstorm and to dream up all sorts of nutty, terrible and laughable ideas without shame.

But the first and biggest step is to have awareness. To know that your inner critic exists, and to know not to believe everything it says. And most importantly, to know that when your inner critic says your latest idea is stupid, it doesn't mean you are stupid.

You're not stupid. You never were. Get over yourself and move on to the next idea.