Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing Down the Bones

This weekend I re-discovered one of my old favorite books that my mom gave me ages ago. I must have been in Piano camp (another story, for another time) at Princeton then because there is a bookmark that reads "Micawber Books", a great store that has since closed. This video doesn't show you much, but I love that someone else geeked out enough to take a video of a bookstore.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg was published in 1986, so despite the varying reviews about the content, it is amazing to see that this little book is still in print. Among the negative comments posted on Amazon, several people complain that there was not enough direction or specific detail on how to improve your writing.

I am of the camp that writing is just like everything else in life: you improve the more you practice. Reading, having conversations, living, these are all beneficial forms of practice and while I think Goldberg highlights all successfully, the words in this book are much more than instruction.

"A writer is all at once everything-- an architect, French cook, farmer-- and at the same time, a writer is none of these things." -Goldberg, 71

"The parts of another's writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write. But not artificially. Great lovers realize that they are what they are in love with." -Goldberg, 79

"Share your work with people. Don't let it just pile up in notebooks. Let it out. Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist. We suffer anyway as human beings. Don't make it any harder on yourself." -Goldberg, 81

"Writing is the act of burning through the fog in your mind. Don't carry the fog out on paper. Even if you are not sure of something, express it as though you know yourself. With this practice, you eventually will." -Goldberg, 86

"I because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know. I am trying to come alive, to find the distances in my own recesses and bring them forward and give them color and form." -Goldberg, 115

Writing may not be your cup of tea, but I hope these words encourage you to take a risk in your life, and trust that you are strong enough to embrace your dreams with all your might. xN

Bear Mountain State Park, early September 2009


  1. Aw, Micawber books, so sad it closed, an amazing store with a Tasha Tudoresque proprietress and true sensory overload right down to the earthy smell of old books. As for "Writing Down the Bones, one of my favorite reads as well. It is full of pithy quotes and artistic inspiration. A few of my favorite excerpts: "Writing is religious, it splits you open and softens your heart to the homely world." "Begin to create in the dumb, awkward way an animal cries out in pain and there you will find your intelligence, your words, your voice." "Writers see things a second time; see their lives again, go over them, looking at texture and details". "Writers hand on their breath at the moment of inspiration". "Everything is interpenetrated". I obviously have journal pages devoted to this book and refer to them often. Surely the word "Artist" could be substited for "Writer". I highly recommend this book for any creative type seeking inspiration. Thanks for the reminder of two personal faves.

  2. Great quotes, Anon! I totally agree, this is very much a motivational book for artists in general. So glad to hear that others are enjoying it as well. Thanks for stopping by!