- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Shambhala; Revised ed. edition (2 February 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 161180308X
- ISBN-13: 978-1611803082
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,01,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within Paperback – 2 Feb 2016
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About the Author
NATALIE GOLDBERG is the author of fourteen books, including Writing Down the Bones, which has changed the way writing is taught in this country. She teaches retreats nationally and internationally. She lives in New Mexico.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"Julia, come on in! It’s great!" Natalie Goldberg’s voice carried over the roar of the Rio Grande river. She had invited me to go swimming, assuring me that our jumping-off point would be safe and placid. It was nothing like safe and placid. The river’s current was strong, and it took a strong swimmer—like Natalie—to brave its depths.
"Come on in," she called again, "You’ll love it." And so, egged on by her enthusiasm, I stepped into the current. It was both strong and swift. Losing my footing, I found myself sputtering. Natalie laughed. "Don’t you love it?" she called. "Just relax." True to her word, Natalie herself rode the current. "You’re doing fine," she assured me, as I mentally wrote my obituary, "Writer takes the plunge and drowns."
Asked to write a foreword to this, the thirtieth anniversary edition of Writing Down the Bones, I found myself remembering that afternoon on the Rio, and the way that Natalie’s bold enthusiasm lured me from the shore. “Why, it’s just like her teachings,” I realized. A million-plus readers have followed Natalie’s bold plunge into the world of words. "Just dive in," urges Natalie, teaching, "Begin where you are." Inspired by her conviction that all of us have lively stories to tell, Natalie’s students put pen to the page, following her enticing leads. Writing Down the Bones is a book of short essays. True to her word, she begins at the beginning: "Beginner’s mind, pen and paper." From there, it’s time to push off from the shore. "Keep your hand moving," she commands. "Don’t cross out, don’t worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar; lose control, don’t think, don’t get logical, go for the jugular."
In other words, take the plunge.
"Do you want a tomato?" It’s another afternoon with Natalie, twenty years later. This time, we are standing at her kitchen counter, and she is urging me to just take one succulent bite. The tomato is home-grown, plucked by Natalie’s own hand. And though I’m not used to eating a tomato like a peach, Natalie models the daring it takes to consider the tomato an end in itself, and not a mere ingredient.
"Why, it’s just like her teaching," I caught myself thinking. It’s a matter of appetite. It’s a matter of satisfaction. Natalie’s writing is filled with savory details. The tomato she plucked from her garden can yield an entire essay.
"Include original detail," Natalie urges her students. Our lives are filled with details, like the ripe red tomato plucked from the vine. Natalie’s writing is filled with food, and her appetite for life gives us food for thought.
—Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way
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It didn't take long to lose the resistance at all. Writing Down the Bones is a gem of a listen, it's like the oddest little ear candy ever. Her steady metronome style of speaking is filled with rules of engagement, with kindness, and with some arguments to counter your own self when you meet your true resistance. This was written well before the marketing / writing / promoting self-help boom came along, and thank goodness. Natalie Goldberg's book is entirely without jargon and tactics, god how I hate that word now, and yet it is a complete guide to "writing your asses off." I lived in Boulder and went to Naropa and everyone and their dog was all agog over Writing Down the Bones. It reminded me of being in junior high when all of the girls in my grade were going crazy over Flowers In the Attic, which did nothing for me. As a result, ok years later as an adult, I found fault with the title - I hated it actually. And then refused to read it. My own loss.
Thankfully, years and years later I was making another long commute in the car, and had run out of things to listen to. Radio reception in the mountains, late at night, meant being hostage to the 3 stations that had no static: orchestral music and Jesus channels. No thank you. I grabbed Writing Down the Bones cassette pack (remember those?) from the library in haste... OK already, I yelled at myself. And popped in the tape and began my drive. It was a delightful late night drive that left me energized, alert, optimistic. She sprinkles in bits about her Buddhist practice which informed her writing of the book, without relying on too much woo, for those of you who think Buddhism is for the birds. It reminded me of my own really haphazard practice of Maitri, which means loving kindness. If you listen to Writing Down the Bones, you are engaging in an act of loving kindness to yourself. And if you allow yourself to take that extra step of actually writing, you're deepening that experience. Or, that's how I take it. You might actually also have a story to show for it. I've gone through the cassettes numerous times. And this is actually my 2nd purchase of the mp3 file since I couldn't recall the account and password I'd used for the first purchase. It's worth it to me to have Natalie Goldberg handy in my back pocket. You might think so, too.