Book Review

Writing down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

A friend of mine, Alison Smith recommended this book to up and coming writers. It was on my got-to-buy-book-list and when it arrived from Kalahari.net, I skimmed it and placed it on my to-be-read-book pile.

Since undergoing my op I’ve steadily worked down the pile and hauled it out hoping it would bring on some inspiration. My experience gaged from reading writing books has not been very promising, for as much as I sought encouragement – these books ultimately left me hollow inside and sadly lacking a desire to write.

This book took me by surprise for it proved to be entirely different and unbelievably refreshing. Natalie Goldberg writes in simple (not over the top let me grab the dictionary) English, the chapters are concise, getting down to the nitty-gritty of writing based on her teachings. Her writing is colourful, thought-provoking and wonderfully stimulating.

This book truly resonated with me as the advice passed on doesn’t only apply to writing per se. It can be utilised in any venture one wishes to pursue in life. She compared writing to running and I honestly felt she was personally talking to me. This is what she had to say:-

”Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. YOU JUST DO IT. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.”

Upon reading this tantalising paragraph, I had my A-HA moment for I’ve always compared my running to writing. When I started out running I couldn’t even run for a minute, however with steely determination, constant training, eating, dreaming, thinking running – I became a runner! With writing I’ve followed the same winning practice – and hey I’m a Writer:-).

Another concept that caught my attention in the book was writing practice. Even though I’ve applied it in the Writer’s Circle I belong to, I’ve never really incorporated it into my everyday writing. Natalie Goldberg convinced me to write every day – not to think about what I was about to write – not to write a masterpiece every time I put pen to paper – merely to write whatever thoughts were swirling around in my head struggling to find its voice. Since grasping this treasure I’ve written every day and I’ve surprised myself with the amount of repressed emotions I had bottled up inside. I have written pages and pages, not thinking about whether it made sense, not caring how it looked and not limiting myself to length!

Natalie Goldberg has ignited a flame within me to holiday in destinations I’ve never dreamt of visiting, to be a tourist in my own country, to set the wheels in motion of travelling if only to relay these adventures through my stories. My interest has been piqued to not only confine my writing to the solitude of my study – to ship myself to quaint coffee shops or quiet restaurants – to sit on my own with the company of my notebook and just write, write, write.

It seemed such a huge co-incidence reading this book at this time in my life when I’ve embarked on meditating and discovered to my delight that the Author studied meditation with a Zen Master for many years and found her true calling through this medium. In the book she marries her vast knowledge of Zen meditation with writing which I BELIEVE is the secret to her success in understanding the human mind and conveying the message passionately.

I relished this book in its entirety and wished it wouldn’t end, wanting Natalie Goldberg to continue revealing her pearls of wisdom. Writing down the Bones is a must-read to all aspiring Writers wishing to exercise their writing muscles. Not only will it leave you enthused – it will awaken your senses and compel you to write:-)

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