Writing down the bones : freeing the writer within

by Natalie Goldberg

Paper Book, 1986

Status

Checked out

Publication

Boston : [New York] : Shambhala ; Distributed by Random House, 1986.

Description

Offers advice on writing creatively, discusses the importance of discipline, and suggests writing exercises.

User reviews

LibraryThing member porch_reader
I'm not a writer, but sometimes I think that I would like to write, just for myself. I'm always fascinated by books about writing. In this one, Natalie Goldberg takes a Zen approach to writing. She encourages everyday practice and close observation. She talks about writing until you get to first thoughts, unfiltered by an internal editor. This isn't a nuts and bolts book, but instead it suggests a general approach to writing and to life.

One quote, in an interview at the back of the expanded edition, really spoke to me. Goldberg said, "Daily life is very seductive. Weeks go by and we forget who we are." That happens to me all the time. So, since I started the book, I've tried to take at least ten minutes a day to write and focus. And I've tried to pay more attention to daily life so that I have something to write about.
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LibraryThing member wordygirl39
One of the classic "so you want to be a writer" texts out there. Goldberg's gift is not in telling writers stuff they already know about writing, but getting them to do it.
LibraryThing member kewpie
I have owned 4 - 5 copies of this book. When I lend them, they never come back! This is probably the most fun, relaxing and still productive book of writing prompts and encouragement.

I am the worst sort of wanna-be writer. I love to read about writing but rarely actually do it. This book is written in such an active yet inviting style that almost everyone who reads it ends up participating.

The exercises can be done in any order and changed to fit your style or mood. I highly recommend it for anyone who writes anything -- journals, web pages, poetry, or short stories. It's that good!
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LibraryThing member medievalmama
This is one of my two favorite books on writing. I've been reading and rereading it for almost 20 years now. The exercises are simple, the results complex. I pick it up when I get stuck.
LibraryThing member Nycticebus
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for writing this book. Nowadays I have dreams about the sagging wooden cottage I was living in some 20+ years ago, the period in which I first read your book, dreams in which the ‘possums and ‘coons and snakes living underneath it crawl up and take it over. In those days I slept on the floor, worked in an Indy bookstore, helped out with local progressive politics and AIDS activism, ran and cycled long distances, and if I had needed to I would have found a few other intense activities to keep me from doing what I needed to do, which was to finish my dissertation. Your writing was clunky but humble and cheerful. It reminded me of the local food coop, where food was more expensive and tasted worse than the grocery store products, at least if you fed a steady sugar addiction as I did, but was tirelessly wholesome. I opted for the A&P, sorry Natalie, for cheap sugary peanut butter and breakfast cereal. But for writing, yeah, for writing I had developed a taste in the bookstore for the good stuff. The problem was (no surprise here), it was hard and I often stumbled. Natalie, your unusual combination of mysticism and common sense appealed to me even when I cringed sometimes at your own writing, particularly as “self indulgence” is a major crime for academic writers. But I learned to sit through the squirmy feeling and stay with you, and in doing that I learned also not to flinch prematurely from my own efforts. The dissertation got written. It was not poetry, Natalie, not that great a read at all, but it got written. Thanks for that.
Sincerely,
A humbled reader
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LibraryThing member amyfaerie
A classic. Goldberg is nurturing and encouraging--any time I pick up this book and read a chapter, I want to write!
LibraryThing member noodlejet22
Finishing this book on writing I realized that it could teach me about life as well. Writing Down the bones is a series of short essays on writing and ways to open up and just let your voice out onto the paper-you have to practice you have to believe in yourself. I originally frantically compiled books on writing. I was having a moment of panic-well a series of moments over a span of about a week. I was looking for a particular book on writing because as a researcher if you don't understand something what do you do but look up the answer. I stalked around bookstores browsing the table of contents, crept through the library reading jacket covers, and surfed online to see what other folks were reading. I rifled through a few books but they weren't what I was looking for. Goldberg gives us funny stories about writing and life-what worked for her and what did not. So as an exercise similar to those she provides I decided to write this review-no editing, non-stop, and no fear.… (more)
LibraryThing member ChuckB
Though I don't necessarily identify with her spiritual beliefs, Natalie Goldberg focuses mostly on the writing and on creative writing exercises in this book--which is wonderful. Writing is not a McDonald's hamburger!
LibraryThing member rycaut
I have given away more copies of this book than nearly any other - probably close to a dozen or more, usually at least one copy a year.

More so than any other book this is the one I recommend to anyone who is a writer. Though it was written long before blogging, the exercises in here would add richly to many personal bloggers. Anyone who is a writer will find inspiration for the practice of writing from this book.

And by "practice" Natalie Goldberg means in the Zen sense of the word - as an ongoing way of life, a daily activity, a form of meditation.

I try to reread this once a year, at least, when I haven't been writing (or when what I have been writing has been diluted and far from what I really want to be writing).
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LibraryThing member susan1963
One of the best writing books ever. Short 1 or 2 page essays that describe one thing to try, in your writing. Go to a cafe. Make time. Describe something. Natalie Goldberg shares her writing skills and knowledge to help the reader uncover their writing skills and deepen their connection to their writing. Simple, and beautiful, and makes it clear anyone can write.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheOnlyMe
A must have for writers. This book has chapters that follow an easy layout and can be read in any order. A great reference tool and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.
LibraryThing member rampaginglibrarian
one of the best writing books ever written!
LibraryThing member patricia_poland
Wow - the first time I got this book and read it I just wanted to try everything and write, write, write. Pick it up and look at "We are not the Poem". Here Goldberg reminds us that writing poetry "frees us" and that "the power is always in the act of writing". But what I really responded to was how she described reactions of others when you read your poems. How they always (always!) think that when you use "I" in a poem that you are writing about yourself - not true! She points out that "every minute we change." And a poem is that given moment, how you felt right then but not necessarily the next day or ever again. This book is a must for anyone who wants to write, longs to write, hopes to write or does write. You will find inspiration in the writing prompts and encouragement in the essays like the one I quoted from above in which she reminds you to "stay fluid" and to not "identify too strongly with your work" for "there is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever." Instead be awake to the moment - write!… (more)
LibraryThing member heatherfeather
Something to return to time and time again when the words don't come that easily ...
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
I tend to think most writing guides are, well, unhelpful at best and utter bunk at worst. But this one is totally excellent; reading it makes you feel like you really CAN write.
LibraryThing member carterchristian1
This was an assigned book for Writers University, the free course where groups were arranged by author, back in the 90s. I bought it and now it has made its way to my daughter's house, but I am sure it is mine. What do I think ? There is nothing underlined, no coments on the fly sheets. Mostly what I remember is the suggestion to write in coffee shops, not how to write.I would say hers is a Rebok approach to writing.

Just write
And write
And DO IT
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LibraryThing member ladycato
I've seen this book mentioned time and again for being a huge inspiration to writers. I lucked out and found a copy at Goodwill recently; it is a first edition, so therefore it may not be the exact same as the current edition.

The full title of the book is Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. That sums up the book very well. Goldberg draws heavily on her Buddhist faith (mixed with her Jewish background) to show how mindlessness and freedom help a writer to actually write. Discipline is part of this freedom. She encourages the reader to write everyday and pull inspiration from common objects, and to keep writing even when everything seems like complete drivel.

I've read several books on this subject. Writing Down the Bones may have been the first of this sort in the mid-'80s, but there are several other more recent books I feel I connected with more strongly - Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and The Mind of Your Story by Lisa Lenard-Cook. I loved how Goldberg connected the fundamentals of Zen Buddhism with writing, and I really wish that could have been more prevalent. In all, it's a good book, and one with hundreds of inspirational quotes for writers... but it's not necessarily the best available.
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LibraryThing member desertrose0601
So far, so good. I'm on chapter 2, I think (I'm listening to this book from audible.com)
LibraryThing member wwrnblog
WRITING DOWN THE BONES

What am I going to write? How am I going to write? If these are your questions or if you often find yourself staring down a blank piece of paper and the paper winning, then Natalie Goldberg’s book, WRITING DOWN THE BONES, is for you. Of course there are thousands of other reasons for reading this book; any writer will benefit from it.

Goldberg is the master of no stopping, no editing, no fear writing. Listening to the book-on-tape version, I felt I sat at her feet while she read her work and she stopped to comment on it from time to time. She giggles and chuckles while she relates stories on her writing practice. She encourages you to write in a notebook, try different locations, meet with a friend for a writing session, and to write whatever comes to mind. She helps you find your creative center.

The six cassettes, nine hours of play time, I found to be a delight. I found myself smiling and eager to write.
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LibraryThing member mykl-s
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (2005)
LibraryThing member bkwriter4life
The best writing book I've ever read. So inspiring, supportive, and wonderful - Natalie talks about writing so simple that it works. A book every writer should own this book and read when they are feeling blue, out of it, incompetent, in a funk, or ready to throw in the towel; this book will bring you out of it, guaranteed. Fantastic book.… (more)
LibraryThing member nilchance
Absolutely vital reading for any writer. It's on my shelf next to the dictionary.
LibraryThing member JackFrost
I’ve been on a writing book bender, and Writing Down the Bones had been on my TBR pile for much too long. One of the most often-suggested writing books, Writing is yet another mix of bio and craft, this time with a spiritual slant. Goldberg is a Jewish convert to Buddhism, though she treats all religions with equal heft and importance. Focus on yourself and the potential in you, Goldberg says over and over, and you will have words and stories and poems flowing out of you so fast you can barely catch them all. Recommended for the inspiring tone and Goldberg’s hippie recollective passages. Very interesting.… (more)
LibraryThing member aliaschase
truly one of my favorite books! i am so appreciative for the accumulated writing prompts, words of wisdom, and profound inspiration. i reference this book on a regular basis to keep me flowing with my creative writing. i would recommend it to anyone interested in writing down their bones!
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
“You're a writer? Don't you just love Writing Down the Bones?”

This is one of those books that people just assume you've read when you have an MFA in writing. I had heard quite a bit about it, but I hadn't actually read it until now. But since this book has clearly been highly praised and circulated within the writing community since the 1980s, it's no surprise that I've come across so much of Goldberg's sage advice throughout the years.

The problem with a book like this is that I have heard it all before. It's a testament to what Goldberg had to say on the subject of writing, but my mind was certainly not blown by reading this. And so I'm not sure if my overall lack of love for this book is indicative of an overpraised lackluster book, or a wonderfully brilliant book that has been dulled by its successors. Frankly, I think it is both.

Some of Goldberg's ideas are golden. She's very much into the “let go” mentality of writing. She has really great advice for how to achieve this. Many of her thoughts on mindfulness are the words I have heard and appreciated over and again. But when you look at the whole of this book, you find that that really is the summation of the author's advice. Sure, she has a small exercise here and a tidbit of non-zen based advice there, but so much of this book is about writing mindfully. Writing mindfully is exactly what I need, but reading this book thirty-two years after its original publication, it is mostly stuff I've heard before.

Writing Down the Bones is excellent for the beginning writer or the writer who wants to approach their work more naturally. It should probably be required reading in undergrad writing programs. But for a broader, more modern perspective of the writing craft or for solid inspiration, I'd look elsewhere. Personally, I loved McCann's Letters to a Young Writer. It's a slim volume and McCann surely will not teach you “everything you need to know about writing” or even come close to doing so, but it features a great mix of topics that are 100% inspiring (though many of those ideas were probably inspired by Goldberg's book).
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Subjects

Language

Original publication date

1986-10-15

Physical description

xv, 171 p.; 22 cm

ISBN

9780877733751

Local notes

literary studies
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