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Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft [Kindle Edition]

Natalie Goldberg
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the sequel to her bestselling Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg advises readers on how to capture the flashes of inspiration of a writer’s life, and turn this “thunder and lightning” into a polished final piece
Any writer may find himself or herself with an abundance of raw material, but it takes patience and care to turn this material into finished stories, essays, poems, novels, and memoirs. Referencing her own experiences both as a writer and as a student of Zen, Natalie provides insight into the struggles and demands of turning ideas into concrete form.
Her guidance addresses ways to overcome writer’s block, deal with the fear of criticism and rejection, get the most from working with an editor, and improve one’s writing by reading accomplished authors. She communicates this with her characteristic humor and compassion, and a deep respect for writing as an act of celebration.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Natalie Goldberg, including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

Editorial Reviews Review

More musings from Natalie Goldberg on writing as a spiritual path, as "an authentic Zen way." Goldberg has some nice things to say about the importance of the process of writing. She recommends her students spend two years at writing "practice" before undertaking a specific project, so that they can "get in touch with their wild minds." The most inspired writing, she says, comes when one's conscious mind gets out of the way. Still, we are puzzled by Thunder and Lightning: is it really meant to show us how to turn "our flashes of inspiration ... into a polished piece of work," as the book jacket touts? It comes off more as a collection of Goldberg's ruminations on writing and reading. Goldberg tells us about her friend Julie's writing process. Another pal, Kate, talks about plot. We study Styron with Goldberg's workshop students and take a road trip through the South to try to figure out just how some of the poorest states in the union managed to produce so many great writers. There are some good stories here, and it's vaguely interesting to know what Nat likes to order when she does her café writing or lunches with her editors, but we end up desiring a little less wandering and a little more focus. --Jane Steinberg

From Publishers Weekly

Goldberg here urges aspiring writers to go beyond the Zen-inspired writing practice she presented in her 1986 bestseller Writing Down the Bones and the subsequent Wild Mind. Writing practice was a means Goldberg devised of observing the mind by moving the hand, writing through our endless judgments and opinions until the unstoppable stream of thought becomes transparent and we can see clear through the mind to the vibrant life force that shines up from the bottom. In this guide, Goldberg seeks to help students find the organic formsAthe resonant questions and questsAthat exist deep down within us. She doesn't teach technique so much as affirm that the life force carves a particular channel in each of us. The title came to Goldberg several years ago in Costa Rica, as she stood at the foot of an active volcano and experienced the sudden power of a tropical storm: "I thought, some divine structure has just whipped through here." Goldberg describes her various book projects as inspirations that crash down like lightning, absorbing her and vanishing. As she delves into her own process and the process of other writers, however, it becomes clear that the work of discovering form can be as long and painstaking as an archeological dig, and as painful as surgery. Great book and story ideas do tend to come in flashes, she confirms. But they come to those who have gotten by the barking dogs of the conventional mind only to face the raw truth about what is. Goldberg writes as someone who has been there and back. She guides readers without handing out any illusions about how easy the trip is. BOMC, QPB, One Spirit Book Club and Reader's Subscription alternates.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3356 KB
  • Print Length: 244 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0553374966
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (July 26, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005E835DC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,314 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational August 9, 2000
It took me a bit to connect with this book because the tone and style are so different from Natalie's previous books. I also found I had to read this a little bit at a time to give myself time to absorb what she was trying to say. But I was really shaken up by the book. After writing a terrible, terrible truly horrible and horribly boring novel myself, I had given up writing (after 35 years). In other words, I was in a similar place as Natalie was in the closing chapter of this book. How she dealt with that and what she relates about that are extraordinary and absolutely inspirational. It got me to pick up a pen again.
Natalie has always had a Zen slant to her writing and it is even more evident here. The connection between the disciplines of writing practice and meditation really struck home with me. Especially as it addresses the ultimate point of writing. While this book does deal with issues of structure (and I disagree strongly that this book is just for prose writers), it addresses more the spiritual and personal nature of writing. Why write? it dares us to ask. Why write at all? As usual, Natalie is challenging our basic beliefs of ourselves and particulary ourselves as writers. Why do *you* write? This book will inspire you to seek the answer to that fearsome question for yourself.
I am indebted to Natalie for constantly opening herself up to an unknown and naturally critical audience. She does sound older and wiser here and that gives me pause too. It goes back to the fundemental question -- why write? This is not a writing instruction book per se, you can visit her previous books for help in that area. This book is something beyond that. Something almost intangible. I was deeply moved by the book and tremendously inspired. Thank you Natalie for giving so fully yet once again.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read Carefully to Glean the Gems August 2, 2000
By A Customer
While this book is essentially a memoir of Natalie's life as a writer, there are tangible, useful clues plus decent and practical advice about how to move your writing to a higher level. True fans should appreciate this book as it represents a deep meditation of a honest and hardworking writer's mind.
Like her earlier books on writing, this one again delivers in a series of essays, divided into three distinct sections. Considering the wide territory she attempts to cover, the chapters end up forming a more cohesive story than before.
Believe it or not, Natalie is on to something here. To find the roadmap that is the promise of this book, you have to read carefully and not skim the pages looking for them. I recommend highlighting or bookmarking these passages so you can go back to them. Just "Like Writing Down the Bones" and "Wild Mind," the ultimate lesson here is to take her advice and carve your own path.
What I liked best about "Thunder & Lightning" is how Natalie walks us through her journey as a writer. Like me, she started with no idea on how to write and made many attempts that lead nowhere. Although she occasionally covers old territory, there's a terrific and inspiring lesson here about what it takes to be a writer.
Natalie also reveals her internal dialogue in dealing with her editors and bravely shows us the editorial revisions to original sentences from her various manuscripts. This should give anyone struggling with the writing process some measure of hope and consolation.
I was a bit stymied when she advises *two* full years of regular writing practice to break through instead of the year she suggests in her second book. I wished she had explained why she's upped the ante.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth a second reading May 15, 2001
I hear a lot of negative things about this book; mostly that it's not as good as her first two on writing. But I think it's just as strong--it just needs to be read from a certain perspective. Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind are wonderful books, especially for the beginning writer, who needs lots of exercises to get started. But I think it's equally wonderful to read Thunder & Lightning and see how Natalie Goldberg's thoughts on writing are changing as she grows as a writer. I read this book when it first came out, and I didn't really understand what she was trying to say. Recently I read it again and I understood perfectly her thoughts on writing within a structure and persevering despite the fears that writers come up against over and over, even after years of good writing. Don't be too quick to dismiss this book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Natalie's Done it Again! August 4, 2000
By A Customer
Natalie Goldberg fans will be very happy with this book! In true Natalie style, the book unfolds as part memoir, part writing manual, and part essay on writing. Natalie could've chosen to simply write in "textbook style". However, this book is better than that. She gives sage advice on what to do once you feel comfortable with writing practice. And she tells you where she is on the path to writing.
One thing I really love about the style of this book is that she doesn't simply lay the lessons out like you are back in grammar school learning everything by rote memorization. Instead, she takes you on the journey of how she learned each of the lessons herself -- which I think makes them more personal and more meaningful. She interviews her writer friends to learn how they find structure in their books as well as their methods of working. And you follow along as she struggles to understand plot.
It is a fascinating glimpse into the world of writing -- both the successes and failures. This is a book to come back to again and again. It's packed with rich insight and practical exercises. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves Natalie Goldberg!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What is not to love about Natalie Goldberg
What is not to love about Natalie Goldberg? I wish they'd re-release this on CD. I had to buy it anyway, because I needed to hear her voice again-- then scrambled around the house... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Yvonne Kester
5.0 out of 5 stars In "Cracking Open the Writer's Craft", Natalie Goldberg doesn't ...
In "Cracking Open the Writer's Craft", Natalie Goldberg doesn't spend many words on the physical aspects of the Craft. There are more than enough books and courses on that. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Marty Stahl
5.0 out of 5 stars Because I'm a Natalie Goldberg fan, I'm enjoying this ...
Because I'm a Natalie Goldberg fan, I'm enjoying this book. I'm reading it a second time! It's not for everyone, but for me, it's entertaining and interesting.
Published 5 months ago by cruz
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book
I love reading Natalie Goldberg's books. This one was no exception. I am always sad when I get to the end of the book and I feel as if I've only touched the surface of the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by virginia robert
1.0 out of 5 stars but by the end I was thoroughly sick of Natalie and more than happy to...
I picked up this book for some inspiration, but by the end I was thoroughly sick of Natalie and more than happy to donate it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amy
5.0 out of 5 stars This woman makes you feel good about yourself!
Natalie makes me think I could someday WRITE ! Well, I'll keep reading and journaling and hoping that some day "over the rainbow" it will come true.
Published 17 months ago by Jace
3.0 out of 5 stars okay only
Again it's repetitive and if you're read writing down the bones then this is somewhat rehash but always fun to hear what she has to say-- so accessible and an easy read.
Published 20 months ago by D. stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, great author, great buy
I ordered this to help with a project I am worked on at school as a writing coach and college teacher. This book was helpful and in perfect condition. Read more
Published 22 months ago by @finchgirl10
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Service!!
I received this book on the mail about three days after I placed the order! I was really interested in the book I got so was so happy to get it so quickly! Awesome!
Published on March 10, 2013 by Karin M.
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Very Helpful
Basically, the author just rambles on until she finds her point. In fact, she admits that this is her writing style. Yes, the book is well-written. Read more
Published on January 12, 2013 by Zalmorion the Fantastic
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More About the Author

Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twenty-four years old. She received a BA in English literature from George Washington University and an MA in humanities from St. John's University.

Goldberg has painted for as long as she has written, and her paintings can be seen in Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World and Top of My Lungs: Poems and Paintings. They can also be viewed at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery on Canyon Road in Sante Fe.

A dedicated teacher, Goldberg has taught writing and literature for the last thirty-five years. She also leads national workshops and retreats, and her schedule can be accessed via her website:

In 2006, she completed with the filmmaker Mary Feidt a one-hour documentary, Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan's childhood on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film can be obtained on Amazon or the website

Goldberg has been a serious Zen practitioner since 1974 and studied with Katagiri Roshi from 1978 to 1984.

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