Book Review: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The book was made required reading by my writing coach.  I already owned it, and had read it before, but it was wonderful to re-read this classic on writing. 

Dozens of unnumbered, short chapters come together to become Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.  The chapters each stand on their own and complement one another.  You can read the book straight through, scan the table of contents to find an appropriately helpful sounding chapter, or just flip through the book randomly for writing inspiration and guidance. 

A warning though, some of the chapter titles, while intriguing don’t make much sense until you read the section.  For example, "Man Eats Car."  Doesn’t seem to ring with writing advice does it?   Goldberg shares a story about a man who ate an entire car.  She uses this idea of not cherry picking the choicest parts (are there choice parts of eating a car?) but just writing down all of it.  She also expands on the absurdity of a man eating a car and how that can open the imagination. 

One of the things I most appreciate about this book is Goldberg’s willingness to be completely honest. Writingbones
She talks about all of the junk writing she does, the stuff that mortifies you when you go back and re-read it, the whiny self-pitying, berating, critical schlock that shows up more than you would hope for in a regular writing practice. 

She also reminds us that in all that junk are sometimes beautiful, truthful things, bits or more that capture something important.  Sometimes you just need a little distance.  And sometimes, it is still junk, but once it’s out of the way there’s a space for more interesting things to surface.

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