As part of my dive back into writing, I've committed to reading a number of craft books this year.
The first book on my list is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This is a book I've read before, but it's been many years. I remembered loving it and being inspired to try to fill a notebook each month like she does, but beyond that I couldn't remember much about the advice in the book.
Upon rereading, I I found that much of the advice was still very useful to me, perhaps even more so then it was the first time I read the book. In the last several months I've taken up a meditation practice, so when I read Goldberg's words about writing as a form of practice it really hit home with me. Now, some days when I sit down to practice and I find my mind wandering I take up a pen instead and write in those moments when my mind feels totally distracted.
I found that the short chapters made it easy to either read one chapter or several at a time. What I would do is sit down at my desk with Writing Down the Bones and my notebook. I would open to the next chapter and read it and if that chapter inspired me I would begin to write, but if I felt less inspired I might read two or three chapters before I began to write. I approached these short one and two page chapters as mini meditations so I was able to decide when I would start writing based on what was going on in that chapter and if that particular essay was meaningful to me. Essentially, I used these essays as meditations in the same way that Goldberg talks about writing as a form of meditation practice. Not every chapter resonated with me I don't think that you can expect that every chapter will, but the chapters that did stick with me helped to push me over a hump. They helped to get me writing on days when I wasn't feeling it or didn't know what I wanted to say.
If you are at all interested in writing, in any form but especially fiction or poetry, I think this book can be a really powerful motivator. It's also just a fantastic reflection on the writing process and the reasons why we write and why we become writers.
This book was written in the 80s so it occasionally shows its age, but I don't think that that takes away from the essential meaning of the text. For example, Goldberg occasionally talks about writing on a typewriter and to most people in the modern audience this probably seems foreign. However, I have a typewriter and I use it occasionally to write fiction. I enjoy the process although it is very slow and noisy compared to using a laptop.
If you are a writer who is just starting out or you are facing some kind of writer's block, I would recommend that you take some time to read this book and use it as a reflection on your practice. You might just find that you learn something about your process and writing (maybe even about yourself) that you wouldn't have necessarily found otherwise. There are a lot of ways to reflect on your practice but this book offers many opportunities to do that. It's a beautiful book and it helped me write some of my draft that I'm working on right now so maybe it can help you too.
If you've read this book, leave a comment below and tell us what you think. I'll be doing more reviews like this as I continue my journey, so keep an eye out for those.