Book Review: Old Friend from Far Away by Louise Allison

Louise Allison

Book Review: Old Friend from Far Away
In Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away, the author suggests several exercises to get the creative juices flowing, to go deeper and question yourself, relentlessly. When I first saw that this text book was a collection of exercises, I groaned to myself. How I hated a specific exercise. I always thought these were trick questions with a right or wrong way to do the exercise. I usually would fall under the wrong category. In fact, I usually skip that part. But there was no escaping this assignment. I was here voluntarily after all. I was here to learn this craft of writing so that I could better tell my stories.
I’d have to face the agony of the task.
“Exactly how do you feel about apples?” the first exercise asks. I am to write with flowing dialogue everything I have ever known or thought regarding apples.
My professor, in an effort of encouragement said to the class, ”Just start writing. Write I hate apples and see what comes up.”
As I begin with the simplest of statements my mind begins to relax and unravel. The more I continue the babble or rather the stream of consciousness, the less involved my mind become, the less it sounds like babbling. It shifts somehow to a more sensible flow of thoughts that become more and more cohesive . I think the trick is to keep the mind out of the process as much as possible.
Suddenly I find myself engrossed in the writing. I believe this is the beginning of the creative process or “zone” that Ms. Goldberg is attempting to point in the direction of. Now, I am recalling all kinds of memories and associations revolving around apples!
Eureka! Maybe I have been wrong. Perhaps these exercises in process are not as harrowing after all. Maybe they are simply warms ups! Could it be this fear I have held on to all my life was just simply that? A thought, a product of my mind!
Maybe that bumper sticker that says “Never Believe What You Think?”  has something to it after all.

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