Zen and the Art of Writing – with Natalie Goldberg

Note: This program was broadcast on WCAI, KZMU and WFIU. It also received a 5-star review on PRX!

Natalie Goldberg, the well-known painter, writer and writing teacher, who wrote the best-seller on how to write called Writing Down the Bones, is also a Zen practitioner, who applies the lessons of Zen Buddhism to her writing, and her life.

This is a complex brew, but in this ThoughtCast interview, which took place in her home, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Natalie speaks frankly about her often painful but also at times transcendent experiences, and how she has turned these experiences into positive, life-affirming acts of self-expression — and of art.

Natalie seeks the truth, about herself, her father (the charismatic Ben Goldberg), her Zen teacher Katagiri Roshi, and the swirling world around her. As those who know her will attest, Natalie’s quest has been a fruitful one. She’s the author of many books, including the novel, Banana Rose, and the memoirs Long Quiet Highway and The Great Failure, among many others.

Click here: to listen to our interview. (30 minutes)

Natalie Goldberg is also featured in the documentary Tangled up in Bob: Searching for Bob Dylan, in which she ventures to his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, in search of – once more – the truth. At the moment, Natalie is at work on a new book, called “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir”, which will be published in February of 2008.

Click here: to listen to Natalie Goldberg read an excerpt (about her parents’ visit to Santa Fe) from “The Great Failure”. (4 1/2 minutes)

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12 Responses to Zen and the Art of Writing – with Natalie Goldberg

  1. Muslim Al-Taan November 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for your hosting and beautifully smiling face first.Thanks for your amazing interview with the terrific writer and painter Natalie Goldberg.Her sound is musically cool.I adored,to the bones,her fertile Small-Big book-“Writing Down The Bones”,second
    .I wondered if you had interviwed the most popular poet Maya Angelou,third.As a matter of fact,my Ph.
    research-project is on her poetry.I’m a poet too.Iraqi
    by origin,Australian now.I’m writing poetry in both
    Arabic and English.One of my poetic collections,”
    Laments South”was awarded by Swiss Agency and published in Arabic and English in 2004.Thanks again with best wishes for more progress and success.Cheers.
    Muslim Al-Taan
    Poet and Ph.D Student
    in Western Sydney University
    College Of Arts
    Creative Writing and Society

    • Roy Sallows April 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

      Good afternoon, Ms. Goldberg. Had to write, as I owe you considerably much. I’ve been writing for decades, with some success – films and television mostly – and, to be honest, I thought I knew quite a bit about writing.
      My wife, much smarter than me (the secret to a good marriage, I believe), gave me a copy of “Writing Down The Bones”, urging me to read it. As a self-confident male, I smiled and nodded and went off on a Robert B. Parker binge. When I came up for air, I found that I had run out of Spenser, and was left, so to speak, with Natalie.
      Best change ever!
      I read your book, cover to cover, in one session, then started over without a break because I had absorbed just enough to realize how little I knew about myself, my writing, my relationship… I was dumber than a sack of rocks.
      Thanks for pulling my head out of my… preconceptions, introducing me to Tai Chi, teaching me why to write, and giving my relationship with my darling of 49 years a new and wonderful tone, depth, understanding, inner landscape, and on and on…
      … pretty good work, Ma’am.
      Changing people, their ambitions and aspirations, employment and goals and the lives they live is often an enterprise riddled with pockets of pain, anguish, rage and other non-essentials. Don’t think anybody has ever got it as right as you did.
      That’s about it.
      God bless you and those about whom you care, and may you always be seeking, and finding, the Gold that you gave so freely to my darling and me.

      Roy Sallows.

  2. Tom Crawford August 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Hi, Natalie,

    ‘Ring me up’ via email when you get a moment.
    I’m wanting to teach a little poetry writing to a
    few serious writings in Santa Fe. You sent Judy my way three years back. X Tom

  3. Malcolm Watts November 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm #

    Hello Natalie. I am a self-published novelist and I have a website. I am also president of the Aurora Writers Group (Aurora Ontario). Do you do workshops? Please let me know if you do and what you might charge for coming to Aurora to do a one-day workshop with our group. Thanks so much.
    Malcolm Watts BA MSW

  4. deb September 19, 2008 at 2:05 pm #

    Hello- does anyone know if Natalies new book- old friend from far away – is the same as the previous DVD of the same name? I have the dvd already…so curious about the book.

  5. andrew gronow February 8, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    this is a personal thank you to natalie goldberg for being the catalyst of my chemical writing reactions. i read writing down the bones and i have been using the composting technique for the last three years, it has brought my writing to another level. in a charity event i wrote poems for a pound and had many responses i made a colleague of mine cry tears of joy when i wrote about his children, i made a lot of people laugh and best of all one lady asked me to write about humanity, the poem was so good she now keeps it in her sacred buddhist prayer cabinet (excuse my ignorance but i forget what it is called) which is a great honour. since then i’ve had a gig as a poet where i read half an hour’s worth of my poetry from a stage in one of my local valleys, and recently i’ve had my first poem published in a book called “immortal verses”. as they say here in wales, the land of poets and singers, “diolch yn fawr” (thank you very much).

  6. Ritergal December 14, 2007 at 6:46 pm #

    Natalie has been my writing hero for ages. Although I’ve not yet attended one of her workshops, I’ve read almost all her books, and refer to her often on my blog when I post about inner aspects of writing and the writing process. It’s terrific to hear her “thinking out loud” on this podcast, and I hope even half the people I’ve sent the link to will listen.

  7. “Write Into the Present Moment…again…” November 17, 2007 at 11:57 pm #

    Ten years ago, I began my writing journey with Natalie Goldberg…I haven’t been the same since. I no longer cringe when I face the blank page. I simply pick up my pen and go.

  8. Jennifer November 4, 2007 at 12:02 pm #

    Thank you, Natalie. I have owned and passed on many copies of “Writing Down the Bones.” Just yesterday, at a book signing for a young adult author, I again passed this book on to a young writer there.
    Your books have done so much for so many. Thank you. I just finished “Long, Quiet Highway,” and I’m still digesting that.

  9. Jackie October 4, 2007 at 11:14 am #

    Thanks to Natalie, I finally started writing and enjoying the sheer effort of writing. Nothing published or anywhere near that, but through her, I can finally just get on with it.

  10. ybonesy October 4, 2007 at 8:57 am #

    Great interview, Jenny. We did a post on it at our blogsite, red Ravine. It is a writing and art community blog, and writing practice is a basic part of what we do.

    Thanks for doing this interview. We’ll check ThoughtCast for other author interviews in the future.

  11. QuoinMonkey October 3, 2007 at 9:30 am #

    After listening to Natalie Goldberg’s new interview on ThoughtCast, ybonesy and I wanted to pass the information along to our readers. But we first wanted to take a moment to reiterate our gratitude for the teachings that Natalie has passed down to us. Our vision for red Ravine was born out of our writing practice and years of study with her.

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