Go Further

From Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

Push yourself beyond when you think you are done with what you have to say.  Go a little further.  Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning.  Probably that’s why we decide we’re done.  It’s getting too scary.  We are touching down onto something real.  It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.

I remember one student whose mother had died of cancer.  She would write one side of a page about it—simple, good prose—and then she would quit.  When she read those pieces in class, I always felt there was more and told her so.  She smiled and said, “Well, the ten minutes were up.”  Write to the eleventh minute if you need to.  I know it can be frightening and a real loss of control, but I promise you, you can go through to the other side and actually come out singing.  You might cry a little before the singing, but that is okay.  Just keep your hand moving as you are feeling.  Often, as I write my best pieces, my heart is breaking.

When I teach writing to young kids, many times they will write short stories with very complicated story lines, and instead of pushing themselves to resolve the story, they use the trick “And then I woke up!”  When you continue to stop yourself from going all the way in your writing and coming to a deep resolution, it’s not a dream you wake up from, but you carry the nightmare out into the streets.  Writing gives you a great opportunity to swim through to freedom.

Even if you have pushed yourself and feel you’ve broken through, push yourself further.  If you are on, ride that wave as long as you can.  Don’t stop in the middle.  That moment won’t come back exactly in that way again, and it will take much more time trying to finish a piece later on than completing it now.

I give this advice out of pure experience.  Go futher than you think you can.

[Post image: Rock Climbing in the Black Hills by lkdegen on stock.xchng]


  1. Don Rogers
    Aug 01, 2011

    Good advice to take to heart.

  2. Sylvia
    Aug 02, 2011

    Ths will be the next book I read. Thanks for for sharing.

    • Elissa
      Aug 02, 2011

      I think you’d like it, Sylvia. It’s usually assigned to writers, but the “practices” within can be applied to everyone! xo

Leave a Reply to Don Rogers

The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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