Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, first published in 1986 is considered a classic amongst writers delving into the genre of memoir or creative nonfiction. The second edition, published in 2005, brought a new preface by the author, and the most current edition, published in 2010, includes an interview with the author in an afterword. The book is written in short, easy-to-digest chapters that address a variety of topics from style, to how to tap into deep emotions, to how to make writing a regular practice in the reader’s life.
Writing Down the Bones is an easy read, and Goldberg writes with passion and advice that comes directly from her own experience. She challenges the reader to delve deeply when writing, to write regularly without concern for quality, and covers such practical topics as ‘The Power of Detail,’ ‘The Action of a Sentence,’ ‘Syntax,’ and ‘Don’t Tell, but Show.’ Her chapters include writing prompts designed to help the reader improve his or her writing by examining the mundane, gripping personal feelings, objects in the immediate vicinity, observations of place and persons. She stresses the importance of managing self-doubt and working with others in critique groups and writing partnerships.
The short chapters in the book, covering a wide variety of topics presented in no particular order, allow the reader to jump into the text at any point. Though the book can be read in a single sitting, each short lesson can stand completely on its own, providing an accessibility that makes the book shine and allows the reader to glean bits of wisdom without committing a large chunk of time buried in the pages.
Goldberg shares her personal tales of achievement and struggle, and in doing so, makes the daunting task of writing seem well within the reach of the beginning writer. The book is encouraging, and is written in such a way as to provide not only immediate inspiration, but also long term advice, writing prompts, and suggestions. It is the type of book a writer will return to many times when facing writers’ block or doubts about the quality of his or her writing.
The practical advice as well as the jarring commands and daring challenges offered in Writing Down the Bones accomplish exactly what the subtitle states: Freeing the Writer Within.
About the Author
From Jacket Cover: Natalie Goldberg is the author of ten books. Writing Down the Bones, her first, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. For over thirty years she has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice. She lives in New Mexico.
Shambhala Library Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages
Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA