Sunday, 20 September 2009

Writing Down The Bones Review

As promised in my previous post, here is my review of a great book for writers - Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, published in 1986 by Shambhala Publications Inc.

In the foreword, Judith Guest sums up the book really well: "In this collection of sane and clear-hearted observations on writing, along with its solid, practical tips, there is a vitality that sings and an honesty that makes me want to cry. This is the way writing feels when it is good. What a challenge to make it feel that good all the time!"

There are many books about the technical aspects of writing - how to create characters, how to construct a plot, etc. But this book is about the creative instinct itself, about setting yourself free to create, observing things around you, practicing by writing, writing, writing.

I have never sat down to write without having a purpose in mind, something planned. Natalie says to write for a set amount of time every day, and just keep writing until the time is up, even if you start by writing "I don't know what to write" over and over. Eventually you will move onto something else, anything else. Describe how you feel, where you are sitting, the sun shining through the window, anything which comes into your head. It's all practice.

She recommends getting a notebook and writing in it like this every day until it is full. Once it is full, sit down and read the whole book as if it were a great novel. She says you will surprise yourself, and learn more about yourself. Mark any really good parts which you can use in future in your planned writing.

I haven't yet got to writing every day, but I have tried out this unplanned writing, and it is a strange feeling for someone who likes to always be in control. I'll let you know how it goes, but I recommend you try it. As a recommendation, I can't say better than the final words of the forward: "It would be wonderfully efficient and clever for us writers to have to learn our lessons only once; failing that, a copy of Writing Down the Bones on a table nearby could save a lot of grief. It could even save your life. A fine poet and prose writer, Natalie Goldberg has found a new voice. It is simply the best aid and comfort around today."

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Writing Down The Bones

For all you writers out there, can I recommend a book? Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, published 1986, is about the creativity side of writing. It looks at what it means to be a writer, and how to develop yourself, rather than just techniques for creating characters and plots. I will be reviewing the book in depth once I have finished it, but here is a sample:

Use Loneliness
Writing can be very lonely. Who’s going to read it, who cares about it? A student asked me, “Do you write for yourself or do you write for an audience?” Think of sharing your need to talk with someone else when you write. Reach out of the deep chasm of loneliness and express yourself to another human being. “This is how it was for me when I lived in the Midwest.” Write so they understand. Art is communication. Taste the bitterness of isolation, and from that place feel a kinship and compassion for all people who have been alone. Then in your writing lead yourself out of it by thinking of someone and wanting to express your life to him. Reach out in your writing to another lonely soul.