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The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,430 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Sit. Walk. Write. These are the barest bones of Natalie Goldberg’s revolutionary writing and life practice, which she presents here in book form for the first time. A whole new slant on writing that she developed since the publication of her classic Writing Down the Bones, True Secret workshops have been limited until now to small, intensive groups at a remote center in th ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Atria Books
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Book Him Danno
At first I thought this book was a bit to new-age zenny for me…was I wrong. The author talks about meditation, reading workshops, walking, sitting, authors she has worked with and everyday folks like you and me. She talks about writing and how it is in you and you need to get it out and write.

Writing can be therapeutic and cathartic. I feel that way about writing and was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about what another writer thinks and feels. You do not have to be published to be a wri
Heather Fineisen
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. This is not a straight up writing book like Goldberg's excellent Writing Down the Bones. It is more like a conversation, a long ride across country with Goldberg and some of her friends. If you are a fan, you will tolerate and even adore some of her borderline stream of consciousness chapters. Zen, poetry, life, death. It's all here. And after the long road trip, you will need to stretch your legs. Then, get out your notebook and your special pens, or keyboard, and Shut up and write. S ...more
Emma Sea
Not really what I was looking for, but perhaps something I needed all the same. The book is in four sections.

1) Basic essentials: The ground of being

What Zen is; how Goldberg practices Zen; what practice is

2) True Secret Retreat Essentials

"the nitty gritty of a formal True Secret Retreat." i.e. the physicality, routine, and tasks of the Zen retreats Goldberg runs


Writing exercises from the retreats, with Goldberg's reflections. Examples are; six word memoirs, textual sketches of fam
♥ Ibrahim ♥
I feel cheated and I love it! The title says that Natalie has the "true" secret of writing, but right in the introduction auntie Natalie spells it out: there is no secret of writing, and if someone tells you he does run for the hills. Natalie understandably loves Zen so much so that she integrates it into her writing courses. How can Zen help you in writing? This book is Zen, lay Zen; sitting and then stepping out into the suffering of the world. Zen, Zen! It is all good as long as it is Natalie ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another book by the wonderful Natalie Goldberg on writing. Many interesting exercises and her usual blend of the creative process combined with Zen practice. And as always, I felt inspired by Goldberg and frequently stopped my reading to go write.

"Shut up, and write," her four words of wisdom and advice to writers. I hope I can put this into practice on a more regular basis.

Her sharing about the death of a friend and student, her sharing of thoughts about death and Zen writings about it, were un
May 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is for "Goldbergians," those who have read all of her books and have attended workshops with her, none of which I've ever done. Her method sounds interesting: Sit (in meditation), walk (mindfully), write (in short 10-minute bursts of "free writing," responding to a prompt she comes up with). I felt like an "outsider," even a voyeur. It seems that almost all of her students are middle-aged (or older), rich white women. At points I was inspired, at other times bored. I was intrigued by h ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think Natalie Goldberg really wanted to write a book about how to practice Buddhism and lead a Zen-filled life, but thought that since her claim to fame is for writing books about writing she had to tie this book to writing as well. As someone who is interested in the art of writing but not so much in Buddhism, this is the worst sort of navel-gazing and I am disappointed and feel like I was conned.
Diane Challenor
Just bought hardcopy of Natalie Goldberg's The True Secret of Writing. I love every word! A treasure! I don't know what it is about Natalie Goldberg's writing but there is just something in her words that triggers a need in me to pick up a pen and write stuff down. Whatever the magic is, it works for me. Thanks Natalie!
Catharine Bramkamp
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
The Latest and Greatest of Goldberg's books - I stood in line for this, and loved her all over again.

Seeing my hero, Natalie Goldberg and buying her latest book.

I once wanted to fly immediately
To New Mexico
For days and days
Of communing and being
Because she was so compelling and sure

I would sit and listen to the master
listen to my mind
Drink a glass of water with attention
earn to meditate and walk and write
I would love a week of only
Meditate, Walk, Write

It’s the secret
To greater things, bette
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, was the first book I read about writing. How easy this is! I thought. It set me on the road to daily writing, a road I’ve walked every day for over thirty years.

How could I resist Goldberg’s latest, The True Secret of Writing? I could not. And I’m glad I couldn’t. Chatty, with the same confident voice as Writing Down the Bones, and filled with little anecdotes that emphasize the ease and worth of writing, The True Secret of Writing is an excellent
Julie Christine
Lovely, earnest, peaceful. Excellent reading guide in Appendix I. I've been flirting with meditation as a way to address anxiety and claustrophobia - I hadn't considered how it may benefit me as a writer. I loved her exploration of Hemingway's value as a writer. It seems fashionable nowadays to diss his writing. More's the pity.
Don't look for any great revelations here-this isn't a writing how-to. It's a meditation on the writing life.
Jennifer Louden
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
There is so much good in Natalie's work and being. I enjoyed her voice and ideas in this book, and loved reading about Mabel Dodge where I have also taught writing for 11 years, and in the end I was left a bit underwhelmed by the book. If you are a huge fan, read this, if not, read her earlier works especially Writing Down the Bones and Long Quiet Highway. If you wish to retreat with Natalie, read this to get an idea of the tone of her retreats and what to expect.
J.F. Penn
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Fantastic - I need a writing retreat :)
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Life is not a commodity and is not singular but full of diversity." (p.ix)

"Including writing practice in your daily life cits through repetitious, obsessive thinking. Writing down those scenarios, pouring out your immediate thoughts on the page, either wipes them out- they're said, done, expressed- or helps you make sense of them, integrating them into your synapses and muscles." (p.xii)

"'When we listen to each other read, we are studying mind. Not good or bad,' I say. We get to hear the burnin
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd forgotten how much I like Natalie Goldberg's voice. This was worth reading--many ideas for myself and to bring to my students.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Based on the book jacket blurb, I had different expectations for the content of this book. It states: "The True Secret is for everyone, like eating and sleeping. It allows you to discover something real about your life, to mine the rich awareness in your mind, and to ground and empower yourself." The basis of Goldberg's system is a silent Zen-based retreat in which you "sit, walk, write". The focus of the retreats is on delving into your inner mind to decide how to write about it. There seems to ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this down. It actually inspired me to acquire some notebooks and start writing my thoughts in them. I've wanted to write a memoir for a long time, but more importantly I need space in my mind to think again. A lifetime of trauma has changed me and I know I have things to say that could help others navigate their own traumatic experiences. But I'm not ready to put it all together, which is why this book is so important to me. It provides a method which will, over time, allow our t ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: borrowed
Written 25 years after “writing down the bones’ it is far more concerned with death and growing old, which is understandable as the author is in her sixties now. She lost her mentor a long time ago but now she writes of her experience losing family, friends, lovers and students.
Typically, one student leaves it until she is dying of cancer to write her book. [My procrastination hears that, I tell ya.]
It’s filled with beautiful writing, short zen poems and small bubbles of her life.
The second part
Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not a writing manual in the way of the classic Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, but I find Goldberg's voice like a cool cloth on a fevered brow. I read a chapter each day at lunch and felt my blood pressure drop as I was reminded why I do this writing thing.
Patricia L.
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
don't skate on the surface, Natalie Goldberg doesn't.
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I love me some Natalie Goldberg but I would rather have re-read one of her other books rather than read this one. It felt disjointed and didn't offer anything new beyond her classics.
Alison Smith
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Natalie Goldberg expounding (again) on the art of writing. But: she does it well & I'm a fan. ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Crossposted at my website,

I discovered Natalie Goldberg in high school when I read a copy of her first book, Writing Down the Bones. As a young person who wanted to write, it was freeing to read that you didn’t have to write in order to please someone or be published; all you had to do was grab a pen and paper and write. Pure and simple.

After Bones, I read three more of her books before moving onto other authors, and I stopped keeping up with her work. Recently, I stumbled a
Abby Larkins
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-2020
Natalie Goldberg has a way of making you feel like you've attended a therapy session and a creative writing class in one sitting. She has so many useful, freeing insights on life and how to capture your existence. The Zen aspect of the book was hit or miss with me depending on the chapter. Sometimes her message was lost on me, but she assures the reader that the evasive nature of Zen practice is normal and it's only human of us not to feel "it" at all times--and it's the same with writing. She j ...more
Katia M. Davis
Nov 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
I should have known better after reading Writing Down the Bones. This book did not offer much different. It was also a mix of stream of consciousness and zen and contained tales of the author's writing retreats. Whilst it is always good to be mindful of what you are writing and how you get to your writing head space, this felt like 250 pages of repetition. I found it very boring and skimmed a lot of it because I simply was not interested in reading about the author's health problems or digestion ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
I will preface this review by saying that I really enjoyed Natalie Goldberg's book "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" and have recommended it to other friends that write. This book left me with a completely different feeling. I think the moment when I really wanted to stop reading was the moment I read the line:

"Each week that I teach I place on the altar a photo of Shiki, the great Haiku writer, an invalid, who dragged himself to the the edge of the tatami mat, overlooking his
Julie M
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Natalie
Can't help but LOVE Natalie Goldberg - been reading her books for almost 30 years. She's so HUMAN, so ACCESSIBLE. The True Secret of Writing was especially good because I was in New Mexico when I read the bulk of it (her home turf). And she had many references to writing seminars, locales, people and landscapes I was familiar with. Not to mention Mpls-her 'other home' for severl years in the 1980's & 90's. Goldberg still makes me want to write for pure writing's sake, for the pleasure and gratif ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Much less than I'd hope for, from Natalie Goldberg. There were a few wry comments in the beginning about focus and discipline and intention, but then it became a long string of anecdotes about her upper-middle-class hippie retreat in the Southwest US. Which, I guess, is fascinating if you're thinking about buying property down there, because there were a lot of details about land formations and stores. But I was hoping for writing advice, so anyone like me can pick through the first third of the ...more
Kate Mildew
Oct 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Stopped reading this book after the retelling of a story about an “ethnic joke” a term she uses twice. She then puts in brackets (Chinese) so you know who the “ethnic joke” is mocking. The story is not about this being offensive, it’s in there as a joke. Very disappointing for a book published in 2013. Even more disappointing for a book that is a repackaging of knowledge and practices from East Asia.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
It has been awhile since I read a book by Natalie Goldberg and I had forgotten how much I enjoy her voice. I have been looking to beginning a writing practice again and I really enjoy the way Goldberg does this. This also has good writing ideas and just a deep way of getting into your skin and sinking deep. The idea of being settled into your skin to write well and meaningfully and not rushing this process is important.
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Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe , which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twe ...more

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“If you never sit still, it does not even hint to that deeper self in you that you are interested. By practice, by showing up, we are signaling that deep motor, that hum of life, that we are ready: Help us. Pay attention and lead us out of our confusion.” 3 likes
“To read and to write is to be empowered. No shackle can ultimately hold you.” 1 likes
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