In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg takes a democratic approach to teaching her readers how to write. While this is a book designed to help readers write, it is not exclusive to only English majors or people who believe that they will someday write the great American novel. The intention of this book is to help anyone get down his or her thoughts, and eventually become a better writer. Goldberg is trying to inspire her readers through simple calls to action instead of wise and grandiose ponderings. “We all have a dream of telling our stories- of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die,” says Goldberg. And that is not limited to brilliant wordsmiths alone.

     Goldberg breaks the book up into small ingestible sections that are meant to be able to stand on their own if the reader is not inclined to read the book in sequence. Each section uses Goldberg’s personal writing experiences to described ways to get the words onto paper. She seems unconcerned with the quality of writing, and more interested in the act of writing itself. In one instance, she uses her own writing quota as an example. Goldberg declares to herself that she will fill one notebook each month. She discourages readers from going into writing in the notebook with intentions of what to write or thoughts that it must be good writing. Instead, she simply tells readers to fill up the pages. Goldberg argues that the more you write, the better you will get, even if what you are writing in that moment is terrible junk.

     She also takes a section to address that dreaded struggle that every writer faces when they just don’t feel like writing. She compares the struggle to the one faced by runners. “You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen,” says Goldberg. “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 a run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop.”

     Goldberg combines her nutshells of practical wisdom with a corresponding list in the section “A List of Topics for Writing Practice.” Instead of talking about abstract ideas and metaphors, Goldberg gives accessible tips and ideas like “Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that.” She also suggests writing about a single color, the stars, a teacher, or simply your morning.

     Goldberg succeeds in her intentions by directly addressing what she suspects to be the reader’s problems and apprehensions. She does so in direct and informal language, as if she is simply having a conversation with one of her students. This approach makes the book an enjoyable and easy read. By breaking the book into sections, she encourages the reader to take her advice one step at a time. The reader is more likely to come back to the book again and again because each section is short enough to read and understand in just a few short minutes. Goldberg wants her readers to just keep writing, and I imagine they will. In need of inspiration, the reader can flip to just about any section and undoubtedly find something in Goldberg’s advice that will incite them to write. That feat alone accomplishes what I believe is Goldberg’s ultimate goal.

     If we play along with Goldberg’s argument, the fact that her readers will be inspired by this book to simply write more means that they will become better writers as a result. Writing more is the simple call to action, but the improved quality of writing is the real treasure trove. The book is accessible because of both the content and the writing style, and what results from a reader following Goldberg’s advice will no doubt improve that reader’s writing life, and possibly those of his or her friends. I suspect that unlike many books written on writing, Writing Down the Bones will be a permanent fixture on many reader’s desks, instead of hidden in their dust-covered bookshelves.

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP