Write Now Newsletter – September 2004

“I knew I had to write the truth. We feel a tremendous relief when someone tells the truth.”

– Natalie Goldberg, commenting on her new memoir,
The Great Failure: A Bartender, A Monk, and My Unlikely to Truth

Hi Writers:

I spent a week in July and a week in August in Taos with my mentor, Natalie Goldberg. I’ve been following the woman around like a stalker since I first met her in 1996 and even moved to Taos to study with her for three years. In this time, I’ve heard her say many helpful things. But last week when I heard her read from her new book, something settled deep within me. It was about telling the truth. Not the universal mind truth that philosophers try to scrape the sky to find, but my truth. The quirky, special way in which I see the world.

It’s not that I need to figure out what the truth is and put that down, but rather, it’s about looking carefully around my world and recording the details that I see. I don’t even have to give my opinion. The details my mind naturally chooses, the events my eyes naturally land upon, will tell the story. I often think of Sergeant Joe Friday of “Dragnet” (okay, I’m showing my age) saying, “All we want are the facts ma’am.” He didn’t want an opinion of what happened. He just wanted her to tell him what she saw and heard. He needed for her to lay it out, detail by detail, so that he could make up his mind and continue the investigation from there.

Similarly, all a reader wants is for me to show bit by bit what happened. “Just the facts ma’am.” I lay it out. This. Then this. Then this. I don’t need to say, “It was awful,” after I’ve pointed the reader’s nose toward a mother rocking her child’s body after he stepped on a land mine. I don’t need to say, “He was so happy,” if I’ve shown the reader his eyes glistening with tears when he turned and saw his fiance appear in the church aisle in her taffeta wedding gown. My truth is in the details, the simple facts as my mind lands upon them. They are horrible and beautiful and everything in between.

So my new mantra (I think I have a new one every month) is, “slow down.” I want to really see the world around me. It’s not grabbing at details, not trying to figure it out in my head, not turning it this way and that to judge which is the best detail or the perfect detail. Instead, it’s letting the details come to me. The world will show itself to me. It’s waiting there for it to present itself. This. Then this. Then this. It’s all there for the taking. When I can record the details that I see in this honest way, my truth will come through loud and clear.

Nita(stop and smell the roses)Sweeney
(c) 2004 by Nita Sweeney