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Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within Paperback – October 12, 1986

4.3 out of 5 stars 531 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Wherein we discover that many of the "rules" for good writing and good sex are the same: Keep your hand moving, lose control, and don't think. Goldberg brings a touch of both Zen and well... *eroticism* to her writing practice, the latter in exercises and anecdotes designed to ease you into your body, your whole spirit, while you create, the former in being where you are, working with what you have, and writing from the moment.

From School Library Journal

YA Goldberg will catch readers interested in writing with her opening confession that she was a ``goody-two-shoes all through school'' and should hold them until she pulls the last page from her typewriter, one ``Sunday night at eleven.'' Part writing guide, part Zen philosophy, and part personal diary, this book has the smooth, fast flow of a conversation with a good friend who, while struggling with her own writing, has picked up more than a few tips that she eagerly shares. Definitely not another ``how to write better themes'' or a rehash of the writing process, Goldberg's short, quirky chapters give the finer points of how to write in a restaurant and why bother to write at all. The earnest, slightly Bohemian, occasionally vulnerable voice will endear her to young writers who are looking not so much for a teacher or text as for validation that they can write and for some simple but intriguing tips to get them started. While there are the required chapters on using detail and keeping a journal, the most important thing Goldberg has to say to young people is that ``we have lived. Our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history. ''Carolyn Praytor Boyd, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications; 1 edition (October 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877733759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877733751
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (531 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many books on writing are strictly craft books. Some are about becoming "pro" - dealing with editors, managing your PR. This is not about that. WILD MIND is about practicing the art of writing and about the life of one writer, Natalie Goldberg. But is so clearly instructive, so vividly stimulating, that reading it will automatically boost your own creative fires, and very likely your output. So...in its way, it is a surprisingly practical book.
Like her earlier WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Goldberg has created another wonderful resource for the writer at any stage of his/her craft. She's evolved, refined and developed the exercises presented in Bones, as well as added new ideas. A favorite of mine is to read work aloud often. She writes: "Write, read,write, read. You become less attached to whether it is good or bad. 'I wrote this now I'll read it, no big deal.' " She gives guidelines for working in a writer's group, and has many "try this" suggestions sandwiched in between anecdotal moments from her life which enrich and strengthen us.
As a professional writer for 25 years, I personally learned from this book mid career and continue to revisit eleven years later. A must have for any writer.
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Format: Paperback
Natalie Goldberg's insights about writing as a spirtual practice are just as valid today as they were in 1986 when this book was first published. Her suggestions to writers work, both for beginning writers and for writers who depend on words in order to make a living. I recommend this book to the emerging writers I mentor as a must-have reference second only to a good dictionary.
As a professional writer who has written over 20 books and 500 magazine articles, I've given Writing Down the Bones away several times after mistakenly deciding that I'd outgrown it. Just as often I've had to go out and buy another copy to remind myself that there's more to the writing life than rejections, and royalties. Every time I reread it, I find something new. Last year I read Goldberg's memoir, Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, which provides insights about how she came to her beliefs about writing and spirituality. I suggest reading both books.
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Format: Paperback
When I took a creative writing course a few years ago, Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" was a required text. It was so good I couldn't put it down.
Natalie points out that all beginning writers are controlled by their "inner censor" and therefore write what they think other people want to hear, or they put a false face on their writing. Natalie does indeed "free the writer within," by giving us permission to "just write sh--" (her words,not mine). The gist of the book is this: just write. Go for volume, not quality. The quality will come as you gain experience and lose your inhibitions. Natalie says everything you write, not just the good stuff but the bad as well, creates a "compost heap of the mind." It stays in your subconscious and mellows and ripens, ready to fertilize your skills and imagination for future writing projects. I actually put Natalie's suggestions into practice and kept a writer's journal for several years (and still do), and wrote thousands of words. I feel that my writing skills did indeed improve and even shine.
Natalie also discusses some things to try, like writing in different places, and discusses useful topics like metaphor and simile. Her book is not a technical manual, but rather an easy read, a personal insight into the joy and freedom from uninhibited writing. I always recommend this book first to anyone who expresses an interest in learning to write.
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Format: Paperback
I align myself more with the negative reviews of this book. It's easy to get caught up in some of the philosophical warm-fuzzy rhetoric of Ms. Goldberg. Akin to watching Oprah pull at an audience's heartstrings, Ms. Goldberg pulls readers in with story after story trumpeting the same message of writing from the heart. The initial reaction is to feel that there's nothing to question about what Ms. Goldberg says.
When I purchased the book, I saw nothing to indicate that it was specific to one particular form of writing, but after reading it, I feel that the author speaks much more to poetry than other forms of writing. The author on several occasions admonishes us to write in the moment and not dwell on ideas we've had in the past. She relates an experience of one student who had a fully-formed idea while out jogging but couldn't reproduce it when s/he got home to the blank page. Goldberg went into a spiel about how we should just let go of those thoughts that are not inspired or conceived in the moment that we sit down to write. That's where I have a fundamental disagreement with her and feel her philosophy becomes almost destructive to new writers. Perhaps poetry functions that way. Perhaps someone has to have that spontaneous quality about their work in order for it to be fresh and exciting. I don't know. I'm not a poet. However, for novels, short stories, and longer works, you would be a fool to let great ideas get away. Personally, I like to let some of those ideas percolate for weeks and even years. Yes, we mature and our perspectives change, but in a lot of cases that only means that we can approach a subject in a different way as we grow older. It doesn't make the subject any better or worse to write about.
Bottom line: I came away from the book with mixed feelings.
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