Thursday, June 3, 2010

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Reviewed by Julie

Published: 1986

It's about: writing. As Miss Goldberg explains in her introductory chapter, "This book is about writing. It is also about using writing as your practice as a way to help you penetrate your life and become sane...don't just read it. Write. Trust yourself. Learn your own needs. Use this book."

I thought: This book was delightful. Its main idea is that before you do anything else, you should get into the habit of writing from your very deepest insides, without pause, correction, or too much conscious, self-criticizing thought.
The chapters have names like "Composting" and "Fighting Tofu" and "We Are Not the Poem" and "Writers Have Good Figures". Tongue in cheek, Miss Goldberg encourages the budding or re-budding writer to try all kinds of methods to get a writing fire started underneath them.

Verdict: On the shelf!

Interesting information: Goldberg, who's a Jewish Buddhist, uses all kinds of groovy language and is all about meditating and is frequently quoting her friend Dainin Katagiri Roshi and all kinds of other people she's been trained by. Also, she has no shame about emphasizing the actual creative value of the embarrassingly hipsterlike activity of going to a picturesque cafe just to write there. I enjoyed that.

Warnings: Nada.

Favorite excerpts:

"Don't make your mind do anything. Simply step out of the way and record your thoughts as they roll through you. Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear...your mind is leaping, your writing will leap but it won't be artificial. It will reflect the nature of first thoguhts, the way we see the world when we are free from prejudice and can see the underlying principles. We are all connected."

"We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important."

my favorite chapter is "The Action of a Sentence".