Review: Writing Down the Bones

January 12, 2011 Comments Off on Review: Writing Down the Bones

For a long time I’ve been trying to garner all the information I can about writing; when I heard that Stephen King or Edith Wharton had written a book about writing, I got very excited and went right out to read it. But Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg might be the only book I ever really needed to read. It’s less about writing than about trusting yourself and working with yourself. It illustrates something I’ve come to accept as a truth: you cannot evaluate art without getting a little touchy-feely and mystical. Goldberg encourages writers to look through their old notebooks for “quiet poems” and stuff that has “energy.” Of course these are difficult to describe, but you do know them when you see them. Just because something is subjective doesn’t mean there isn’t a wrong and a right.

She also constantly ties writing in to meditation and Zen practice. At the very end she says that you should make your passion your practice; if you love to run, you should go deep into it and make it a meditation, and if you love writing, you should do the same with it. All in all it was just a really strong vote of confidence in the reader. I feel empowered. This book tells me that the trick to writing is to know yourself and your environment and your material backwards and forwards, and then everything will come naturally, which is a message that rings true for me. It makes me feel that I could go up to Stephen King and his disdain for adverbs and flip him the bird and shout abusive things at him if I wanted to, without worrying that I might be abusing someone who’s actually right. Writing Down the Bones gave me license to have my own right way of writing, and now I finally feel like I’m allowed to go off and just begin.

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