Writing Down the Bones

By Natalie Goldberg

This book is part instruction guide, part inspiration, and part meditative reflection on writing, topics for writing, writing habits, writing instruments, and pretty much anything and everything even remotely related to writing. Composed of short chapters, typically 2-3 pages long, this book could easily be a breezy read, but reveals much more valuable insights if slowed down, mulled over, and thoroughly digested in a lighthearted way. Goldberg shares examples of her time teaching a range of writing courses, from children to adults, community workshops, intense writing marathons, and sitting with good friends attempting to power through writers block (or accepting it for what it is and figuring out how to work around it). She also shares how much she learns from these experiences, and how each activity, attempt, failure, success, and moderate success enriches her practice and helps her to grow in her writing. Throughout, she offers suggestions for writing practice, including timed writing, keeping a list of writing topics, taking one sentence with energy and writing different stories from that starting point over and over again, observing the world for a while and recounting your thoughts, breaking through all barriers of social norms and diving into difficult and awkward topics, gathering a group of good friends for story circles, and many, many more. With infinite possibilities and opportunities, writing practice can always attempt something new, grow from experience, and deepen your understanding of the world. Although she acknowledges that some writing is “good” (clear, precise, imaginative, evocative, etc.) and some writing is “bad” (bland, dense, confusing, etc.), such judgment is fleeting and instead she focuses on continuing to grow. What permeates this entire book is: write. Whatever comes of it, keep doing it.

“Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg is a phenomenal book. She writes with an air of optimism and positivity, instilling the sense that anyone can write (which is true!), but she doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of writing. By sharing her own struggles as a writer, Goldberg builds rapport with her audience and makes her personal experience relatable. The short chapters make this book very easy to read, and each sentence is drenched with inspiration, reflection, and possibility, so the pages pretty much turn themselves. Highly recommended.


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