Thursday, August 28, 2008

Writing Down the Bones

"It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice." This quote comes from Natalie Goldberg in her book 'Writing Down the Bones'. In this book, Ms. Goldberg stresses how writing practice helps writers to learn to 'trust their own minds and create confidence in their own experiences'. She talks about taking our experiences and composting them like we do garbage, turning them over until they turn into organic soil.
One of her goals was to write a notebook a month. She mentioned that she had a pile of notebooks five feet high, just from writing practice. "It is a good idea to have a page in your notebook where you jot down, as they come to you, ideas of topics to write about." She advised, in one of her chapters. In the same chapter, she also listed topic ideas.
Ms. Goldberg talks about discipline and tricks to help yourself do your practice writing. She also stressed that it is important that you put your heart and soul into it. If you find that you are bored, go away for awhile and come back. You have to put energy into it to make it worthwhile.
The use of original detail in writing is important. "Using details you actually know and have seen will give your writing believability and truthfulness." Be aware of the details around you and when you have a moment write them down. Care about them.
There is a chapter called 'Don't Marry the Fly' where the writer is warned about getting caught up in honing in on a specific detail at the expense of your story. This chick is sharp.
There is a chapter on the importance of listening, and one on the use of verbs. Writers are encouraged to be specific. To learn about the topic they are writing about and speak that way. Don't just say flower, say geranium and know what a geranium is.
Ms. Goldberg gives a lot of practical advice, mixed with some zen type philosophy about how writing can be improved. I enjoyed this book and found some helpful tips. It may not be every ones cup of tea, but if you read it, and like it, Ms. Goldberg has since written other writing books, including 'Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, and Thunder and Lightening: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft. These books can be purchased on Amazon, or I'm sure you can probably find them at the local library.


Rebecca Talley said...

Love your illustrations.

Great review. I've heard good things about this book but have never read it. I should. Sounds like she has good advice for all of us infected with the writing bug!

Kellie Buckner said...

Thanks for the review! It sounds like a great book and one I should pick up.

Kim Thompson said...

Sounds like a good book with lots of great advice. I'll have to check it out.

Rachelle said...

Thanks for the review. I really liked the ideas. Sometimes we get so caught up in doing it just right that we don't allow our writer to write!

Randall McNeely said...


Great review. Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a great book that I need to own.


P.S. I loved the dog picture!

Cindy Beck said...

I'd heard many good comments about this book, but nothing concrete that told what the book was actually about. Thanks for the review, as it gave a glimpse into the book.

Also, loved your dog illustration!

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