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The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  377 ratings  ·  71 reviews
What does it take to have a long writing life? Drawing her years of writing, teaching, and practicing Zen, Natalie Goldberg shares the experiences that have opened her to new ways of being alive experiences that point the way forward in our lives and our writing. The "great spring" of this book title refers to the great rush of energy that arrives when you think no life wi ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published February 20th 2016 by Shambhala Publications Inc (first published February 2nd 2016)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Taylor Church
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading Natalie Goldberg has become an enjoyable pastime for me. I'll read a few books then I feel like it's time to reunite with ole Nat. That's how good of a writer she is. Her stories aren't necessarily life-altering or grand, but her writing is like an old friend, the kind you seem to resume conversations with years later without missing a step.

In this book the autobiographical stories kind of bounce around with vague connections to moving forward in life, zen, and appreciating life. As alw
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At the age of 19, I checked Wild Mind out of the tiny little backwoods library in a dead-end town and it changed my life. Suddenly I was filling volumes of notebooks in 10- and 20- minute intervals and pouring myself onto the page, all the while fascinated with how openly Natalie spoke of her own life. Immediately upon finishing Wild Mind, I went back and found Writing Down the Bones. I remember sobbing after putting down Banana Rose, the inspiration from Living Color, Long Quiet Highway, and wa ...more
Emma Sea
Apr 15, 2017 marked it as dnf
nope, I'm done.dnf at p. 61. I am a fan of many of Goldberg's other books, but this one did not speak to me. ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
As some reviewers have noted, there are some essays that previously appeared elsewhere, but there is enough new material to make this a worthy read. For those looking for a how-to on writing, this is not your book. If you are looking into the deep mind of Natalie G, you would do better to try Thunder and Lightening and Wild Mind. This book, The Great Spring, is more of a reminder for the mature reader that life is life, deal with it, accept it, keep breathing in and breathing out, keep paying at ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Natalie Goldberg has always been this wonderful mishmash of an all-too-human person with a saint. And she uses this wonderful combination of self to explore writing and Zen.

Apparently, she has very quietly had an experience with cancer that brought her right to the edge of life, but she’s come back to center, and now she has pulled together some of her essays that all wend a bit around ideas of the return of life, the great spring. It’s a lovely collection, and I was happy to read it.
Artemisia Hunt
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
In The Great Spring, Natalie Goldberg's language breathes with poetry. Having read so many of her books on writing and Zen over the years, I was taken with the way her insights and her voice have become wiser, fresher and clearer over a life of spiritual seeking and steady, showing-up-on-the-page writing practice. She may have some regrets that her path did not include the Zen title of Roshi, but in her writing, she most certainly has earned whatever its literary equivalent would be. ...more
Agatha Lund
Twenty years ago someone gave me Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within and it was exactly what I needed. This weekend I read this and it was exactly what I needed. ...more
Meg Nalezny
Jun 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
Did a seasoned Zen practitioner and writing teacher really use the phrase, "We sound retarded"? And her editors let it go by? This was my introduction to Natalie Goldberg, whose work I've heard such good things about, but I can't read from someone who doesn't see the cruelty of these words. I'm not interested in voices that speak up for a few marginalized groups and stomp on others. ...more
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Not one of Natalie's better books, but I still liked it. She's a fantastic writer. ...more
John Thorndike
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I live a quiet life. Most of us do, most of the time, and Natalie Goldberg is no different. Yet now and again, to all of us, comes a moment of intense feeling. Some piece of our history, some love or loss, rises up and all but overwhelms us.

No one is better at showing such moments than Natalie Goldberg. I take this to be her life study. She is adept both at opening herself up to these emotions, or visions, and at setting them down in words. Her devotion to writing has gone on as long as her pra
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm a Natalie Goldberg fan, and sometimes I grow weary--not this time. This book is marvelous. You get so many new insights into her life, and you get hints about things that make you want to read other books, like THE GREAT FAILURE or about her health, LET THE WHOLE THUNDERING WORLD COME HOME. In the latter, Goldberg's current girlfriend is Yukwon, but her name is unveiled as Baksim in some of these stories. I'm calling them stories even though their nonfiction because I don't like saying the w ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it liked it
"Even if you can't write, you can see the way a writer does, notice, take in, digest the details and stories that surround you." That is the one quote I took from this book.

I have been a fan of Natalie Goldberg for many years; since I discovered her first book, "Writing Down the Bones." I have read all of her books since and found this one of the most disappointing. It is a series of memories written in chapters. Not related in any way except as parts of her life.

It seemed the subject of writi
Victoria Manning
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book. It was heartwarming to hear it spoken by the author. However, it had so many beautiful passages, I wished I were reading it in the “flesh” as my highlighter would have been busy indeed. Makes me want to read her other books.
Marie Kordus
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Easy reading like all Natalie Goldberg's books. Interesting essay like stories of her writing and zen life. ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just an enjoyable, and stimulating, collection of essays. I read it as I was thinking about writing a short memoir piece of my own, seeking inspiration. Goldberg sets a high standard1
Micaela Gerhardt
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended and given to me by my mom. Some interesting insights on Buddhism, writing, life. In one essay, she quotes Thich Nhat Hahn, "It is not because of impermanence that we suffer but because of our ideas about permanence." I like that, and many of the essays hinge on the idea of impermanence--moments when Natalie wrestles with it, moments when she briefly accepts it.

My favorite essays included:

- "On the Shores of Lake Biwa," about a time Natalie travelled to a zen monastery in Japan and s
Nomon Tim
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Okay I'm feeling self-conscious that I'm going to come off really grouchy here but I found Natalie's opening chapters about Zen in Japan really disappointing and I'm having trouble finishing the book.

She plays the fool in a way that comes across as playing for our sympathy as readers. I'm sure it's meant to be endearing, but it's just not flattering. It reminds me of how hard it is to go on with a detective novel when the protagonist starts making dumb decisions which the author calculates will
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoy Natalie’s prose -- her rhythm and descriptors but especially her insight into the everyday as well as the extraordinary of life. I’d only ever read WDTB (I’ve  re-read it several times even) and while I didn’t connect with every essay in this collection, I found reading it calming. Quieting. And there were several occasions to pull out the highlighter and mark passages which cut into a deep truth for me. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, “We read to know we’re not alone,” and that’s ...more
Fans of Goldberg will likely delight just in getting to know her personally through these stories, and there are some memorable ones here. But the collection as a whole is not strong, with too many uneven pieces that end on overly sentimental tones. In her own Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg writes (drawing from author Irving Howe) that "the best art almost becomes sentimental but doesn't." She walks that line successfully a few times in The Great Spring, just not often enough for me to truly r ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
In practicing he twin disciplines of Zen and writing, Goldberg has found a way of life she shares in this collection of essays. If you are interested in writing advice, you will find that here. If you are interested in Buddhism, you will find some of that here. The essential message for either kind of reader is embedded in the title, which celebrates the rebirth we experience when we leave the old behind and greet the new.
Carolyn Young
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
"Sometimes I feel like I am walking the line between the void and a real good hamburger." Anyone on a spiritual quest can identify with that sentiment immediately. It seemed like this book was about Golberg making sense of her "zigzag" life and I appreciated her capacity to put a framework around this life of writing, Zen, and lots of travel and relationships. This book didn't grab on the whole like her other works have but there are moments of deep insight that quite luminous. ...more
Peter Swanson
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
The subtitle on the cover really sums up the thrust of this book: Natalie's peripatetic search for Zen enlightenment. It didn't smack me in the brain like Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind, as my interest in Zen Buddhism is minimal, but it is good, and provides much insight into the motivation of her life. ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-reads, memoirs
Good grief. I loved Goldberg’s writing books, which I read decades ago, but now I’m questioning that. I thought this memoir comprised of essays would be really good, yet instead I found it navel gazing at its worst. A name dropper, this was all me, me, me, not the kind of memoir I like. Self introspection is one thing, self absorption is another.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read Natalie Goldbergs earlier books Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones and these inspired me to take hold of a pen and ‘go’. Years later I find both she and I have not changed much. Where is the wisdom and finesse? Still I did enjoy taking another stroll with her.
William Sowka
Jul 22, 2020 rated it liked it
A collection of unconnected ramblings. Each story starts out good, but in the end I’m not particularly inspired. It all feels a bit contrived and the messages, if any, that the author attempts to convey are esoteric. Not a bad read, but there was lost potential.
Nishta Mehra
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Someone handed me this book and told me they'd thought of me when reading it; I can truly say it landed with me exactly when I needed it. This book is definitely not for everyone, but if you are interested in a creative life and consider yourself a spiritual person, I think you'd find gems here. ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pithy thought-provoking snippets.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like it. I'm interested in her Zen approach to writing, but not Zen in general. I dunno. Still adore all the other books. ...more
Ellen Brickley
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I always rate Natalie Goldberg books 5/5. Carry on :)
Kayla Vitalia Marcantonio
I find much of myself within Goldberg's life and writing, and that both exhilarates and terrifies me. It's a good feeling. And a bit nauseating, in the best possible way. ...more
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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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