Writer’s Guides: Writing Down the Bones

Ever since I resolved to get myself back into writing, I reached into my bookshelf for the books on writing* I’ve bought over the years. Some I have read and used and came back to over and over while there is a lot that simply became my writer’s reference section. Suddenly, they all seem very useful.

The now classic Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is a good place to start and I have referenced this wonderful book in my entries from the past few days.

I was a young man taking a poetry writing class when I bought the first of several copies I’ve bought over the years. The professor had us use it as a guide and I remember reading it and being completely blown away with what Goldberg had to say.

Natalie Goldberg doesn’t offer technical advice. There isn’t anything about how to plot or how to structure. Instead, she teaches the reader about practice, trusting one’s own mind, and letting go. It is Zen for writers.

Additionally, there are prompts and discussions of process and Goldberg’s stories about teaching and her own practice. As a teacher and a writer starting back into my practice, I appreciate them, but I’m also opening the book and looking at it fresh.

It’s coming back to that beginner’s mind and letting go of those previous readings and getting something new out of it. It’s not just about the reading, but the practice, whether it is putting pen to paper or using some other tool. Creating the space and being present are very basic yet essential no matter how far I go into this practice.

*Here is the list of writing books:

  1. Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down The Bones
  2. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  3. Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
  4. Rachel Simon, The Writer’s Survival Guide
  5. Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer
  6. Jeff Vandermeer, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Writing Imaginative Fiction
  7. Jessica Page Morrell, The Writer’s I Ching (with card deck)
  8. Naomi Epel, The Observation Deck: A Toolkit for Writers (cards and guide)
  9. Jamie Cat Callan, The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” of Your Brain (game kit)

There are more titles I can name, maybe later.

This was originally posted in The Shindoverse Notebook.

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