I am asleep.
I’m sitting in a rowboat. The boat is all wood. We, the boat and I, are floating on a deep pond. A fir and cedar forest rises beyond. The water is rimmed by a grey rock beach. The boat and I are still.
I watch a small, black and white cat step from the forest, across the beach, and into the water.
The cat swims, and then dives deep. ‘I didn’t know cats could do that,’ I say.
I can see her, as though I am under water too. The cat catches a large fish in her mouth, swims back to the surface, and returns to the beach.
She eats the fish. She looks very satisfied with herself.
I write my morning pages after breakfast. Purple ink today. It is snowing again. The thermometer says -10 degrees Celsius. The forecast says expect the same through this coming weekend. Hmmm. My eyes are beginning to get hungry for green.
I write out my dream. I hear my voice again. ‘I didn’t know cats could do that.’ I again feel my astonishment at something unexpected and new. Since when do cats not only swim, but swim underwater?
Tigers swim, I write in my pages. So do jaguars. Why not small, black and white cats?
Why not me? I am Cat. I love swimming, and my dad taught me to dive. I know how to dive cleanly and well.
If I dive deep, I will catch the words. I will catch my book.
I sit very still. My pen has stopped moving. Exactly what Natalie says not to do.
The dream is talking to me. I start writing again, to catch the words.
This second draft I am creating—I need to dive deep. The dream says I’ve only been paddling along the surface, even staying safely on the beach in some parts of the story.
If I want my book to be fully realized, and I do, I can’t stay on the surface. The book isn’t here. The words and feelings I want are down below.
The pond is deep and clear and full of flashing, silver words. I love words. There is nothing to fear. I know how to swim and dive and imagine and write. I am good at all these things.
The dream says, take a breath, and dive.
The dream says, cats can do this.
Natalie Goldberg’s first rule of writing practice is ‘Keep your hand moving.’ She also says ‘Shut up and write’. I’ve invented a new writing rule for myself, ‘Shut up and dive.’ All of Natalie’s books are my favourites. You likely already know Writing Down The Bones. So go read The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language, Atria Books, 2013. Really, the true secret of writing is in there. Natalie spills the beans. Thank you, Natalie, for showing me a way of being a writer, and spilling the beans. http://nataliegoldberg.com/