Why I read this book: It’s extremely well-regarded as a book for aspiring authors.
Did I enjoy it: Sort of. It was a little too out-of-body/zen for me.
What I will learn from it: She has a gift with words, making every expression playful and fun. The basics covered the same sorts of things covered in so many books on writing. One exercise she lists that I thought was particularly helpful was targeted at helping you avoid stale verbs. She suggests thinking of a profession and listing every possible verb you can think of associated with that profession. Then list an equal number of nouns on the opposite side of the page. Then look at them together and see if you can match them up.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” is a zen approach to writing. To Natalie, the act of writing is a spiritual activity. The book gives several tiny clips of advice covering subjects such as perseverance, inspiration, and good writing habits.
Reading this book is like reading poetry, which makes sense since the author is primarily a poet. She brings us lines like “That banana I ate in the cold kitchen Tuesday morning stopped the world.” These little clips kept each section fun and fresh. You never really knew what she might say next.
That said, this book didn’t really strike any chords with me. As much as I enjoyed the little vignettes she would set up for us, I found the book a little too Zen. While I do not believe that writing can be reduced down to cold logic and formula, there’s only so much that I can be the giraffe or sautee the blinds.
Ultimately, “Writing Down the Bones” is a well-written book that I think will be a great way to reach many writers that view themselves first as artists (but probably need to accent the second syllable of Ar-Teest to properly capture the mood). Some people may find it unfolded their hearts, or caressed their studio. For me, it swallowed the floor.