On Friday, Carl and I had a conversation about blogging. I’ve been having trouble coming up with topics that feel compelling and writing them in a way that feels natural and heart-centered. Frankly, I’ve been sounding like Professor Expert even to myself. I didn’t like it, in part because that’s very different from who we’re trying to be in business. How can we talk about being heart-centered and focused on helping business owners achieve their life goals if we’re being all dry and heady? It just wasn’t working.
Hence the conversation with Carl. He brought up “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve been listening to it over the weekend. She talks about a very different relationship to writing, an ongoing, daily relationship, not with blogging, but with writing itself. I’m not going to tell you about that here, she does a much better job than I could. What I am going to say is that I’ve been sitting with it and trying it out for the past couple of days and I find that I have much more to say and it feels much more personal and present. There’s an immediacy to simply writing whatever wants to come out of the pen. It feels like I’m going through the opposite of learning to compose online.
Of course, it wasn’t called “online” back then. This was when PCs were just coming out. There was no such thing as a network and writing a document was a lot like formatting a web page by writing HTML. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) was brand new and a big deal.
So this is how I would compose a document or a business letter. First I pulled out a yellow pad of paper and a pen and wrote a few paragraphs. In the process, I noticed that I wanted to phrase things differently, perhaps rearrange the paragraphs a bit, so I pulled out a red pen and started crossing things out and drawing arrows to show where I wanted to move stuff. Then the page got so messy that there wasn’t any more room. Now I had two choices, I could copy it out by hand or use the brand new choice of typing it into the (brand new word at the time) word processor and then printing it out. I had to print it out because it still felt very unnatural to compose at the keyboard. Then I took the paper and kept writing paragraphs and making red edit lines. Eventually, despite how difficult and uncreative it felt, I forced myself to start composing things at the keyboard directly and after a while it started feeling natural.
Now, I’m adding that older process back into my life, at least in part. I have a pen and paper and I’m writing daily simply to keep my thoughts flowing into words. Some of what I write down is useful, the beginnings of things I might put into a blog. Some of it is pure stream of consciousness, like writing about picking up the pen and writing even though I have nothing to write about except noticing the bold strokes of the pen and the feel of it flowing over the paper.
I have no idea what will come of writing this way in the long run. But I have to say that it feels easier and more natural and, most importantly, more alive.