I finally finished reading Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I didn’t want to finish it because I didn’t want it to end. Also, I could only read a few pages before suddenly having to put it down so I could go write something.
Anyhow, I thought I’d share with you the notes I took as I was reading. This is not a substitute for reading the book but it does give you the gist of what it pushes you to learn:
Let go completely. Let yourself totally be a writer
from now on.
Rather than following rules, have a friendliness
toward existence. Rules were made so that things won’t be hurt or abused.
If you are kind, you will naturally be doing the right thing without
having to refer to legalities.
Let writing teach us about life while life teaches us
about writing. Let it flow back and forth.
The biggest struggle is not with writing itself, but
through the fear of success, the fear of failure, and finally just burning
through to just pure activity.
Own anything you want in your writing, and then let it
Make lists of your obsessions so you can see what you
unconsciously (and consciously) spend your waking hours thinking about.
After you write them down you can put them to good use. You have a list of
things to write about. And your main obsessions have power – let them work
Use original detail in your writing, even if you have
to transplant it to your fictional setting. In other words, if you have to describe a bar in your make-believe setting, use details from a real bar in your home town.
Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical.
Writing is 90% listening. You listen so deeply to the
space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of
you. If you can capture that reality around you your writing needs nothing
Try writing without thinking. Allow the elm in your
front yard to pick itself up and walk to Iowa. Dive into absurdity. Take
chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.
Talk is the exercise ground for writing. It teaches
you what keeps people interested and what makes them bored. We should
learn to talk, not with judgment, greed, or envy, but with compassion,
wonder, and amazement.
As writers we have to walk in the world in touch with
that present, alert part of ourselves, the animal part that looks, sees,
and notices – street signs, corners, fire hydrants, newspaper
Even though life is not always so clear, it is good to
express yourself in clear, affirmative statements. Get rid of all vague,
indefinite words and phrases.
Writing is the act of burning through the fog in your
mind. Don’t carry the fog out onto the page. Even if you’re not sure of
something, express it as if you know yourself. With this practice you
Writers write about things that other people don’t pay
much attention to. Our job is to make the ordinary come alive, to awaken
ourselves to the specialness of simply being.
There is no perfection. If you want to write, you have
to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen,
or desk, so train yourself to be flexible. Try writing under different
circumstances and in different places.
Push yourself beyond when you think you are done. Go
further. Sometimes when you think you are done it is just the edge of the
beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too
scary. We are touching down into something real.
In Japan there are stories of great Zen poets writing
a superb haiku and then putting it in a bottle in a river and letting it
go. For anyone who is a writer, this is a profound example of
Writers, when they write, need to approach things for
the first time each time.