Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Writing Down the Bones

I started to hear the title probably about the same time I started to teach high school a few years ago. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. A quick reference or a cherished passage popped up now and then in conversations. I might have even scribbled the title on a napkin or a ripped sheet of notebook paper. This past fall, I happened to see it on the book shelf at the Trident book store. There it was. Slim and inviting. Then a few weeks ago I saw it recommended again by a valued colleague. I had to pick up something else anyway and it fit so nicely in my open palm. So now I have my own paperback copy.

I needed this book.

Natalie Goldberg’s collection of essays presents a coherent vision for why writers write. Her philosophy is that writing is a kind of practice like yoga, even music--an idea she seems to have gleaned from her Buddhist practice. Indeed, the novel could have been called Zen and the Art of Writing.

Goldberg’s novel fell into my hands just as I was in a glump(what I call the gloomy slump when I can’t get my butt in the chair and make the damn keyboard sing). I need a path. I need a community of writers. The Fall semester had ended and I was waiting, waiting for my next round of classes to get me back in line. Goldberg reset my gears. Tuned me up. Got me hot to write. If you write or don’t write because you think you can’t. . . check out this little book for a patient guide into the practice of writing.

Memorable Passages

“It is easy to lose sight of the fact that writers do not write to impart knowledge to others; rather, they write to inform themselves.” (Foreword, xii)

“It is not an excuse to not write and sit on the couch eating bonbons.” (15)

“Don’t worry if what you know you can’t prove or haven’t studied. . . . Own anything you want in your writing and then let it go.” (29)

“Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear.” (35)

“In writing with detail, you are turning to face the world. It is a deeply political act, because you are not just staying in the heat of your own emotions. You are offering up some good solid bread for the hungry.” (47)

“I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work.” (48)

“But we should always concentrate, not by blocking out the world; but by allowing it all to exist. This is a tricky balance.” (73)

“It’s much better to be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices through us, than to be a cloistered being trying to find one peanut of truth in our own individual mind. Become big and write with the whole world in your arms.” (80)

“Writing is the act of discovery. You want to discover your relationship with a topic, not the dictionary definition.” (97)

“Have a tenderness and determination toward your writing, a sense of humor and a deep patience that you are doing the right thing.” (109)

“You can’t go deep into your writing and then step out of it, clamp down, go home, “be nice,” and not speak the truth. If you give yourself over to honesty in your [writing] practice, it will permeate your life.” (134)

“And the truth is that the truth can never ultimately hurt.” (160)

“Anything we fully do is an alone journey. . . . you can’t expect anyone to match the intensity of your emotions.” (Epilogue, 169)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this book...I would definitely recommend to anyone especially those in writing courses or teaching one. It has assisted in jump starting me on several occassions when I thought I had nothing left. Glad you picked up a copy for yourself!