4 Lessons Learned from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg was published the year my elder sister was born. I read it on 18th and 19th May of 2021 and thirty five years since it broke into print, I found such comfort, understanding and encouragement reading what she had to say on writing- as art, expression, truth and life.

The book is only 171 pages and from the foreword to the appendix, she draws a lot from Zen and you’ll come across quotes from Katagiri Yoshi a lot. Here’s what I get to keep in mind after reading it:

  1. Claim your writing. This is something I struggle with. Hearing someone say they loved my book, or a character so much that they want to talk about him/her or even that they hated my work- and with the star rating index, anything short of a 3-star review is enough to have me put my music player on shuffle. She shares how important it is to claim the good and bad- to accept that you wrote it.
  2. Write anyplace. I do this a lot

“Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act, just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.”

3. Go further. Here she talks about going beyond our comfort zone and says that sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning.

4. Don’t marry the fly. I laughed so much reading this chapter because I have felt it as a reader. Sometimes when I read a book and I am following what is happening, there are certain sentences or details that throw me off- and often I feel like the author lost me, or that the author’s trend of thought changed and Natalie explains why this happens. Simply put she says, “If the writer wanders, then the reader, too, will wander.” In another sense, details are important but if you focus on one detail so much you may lose the reader.

And finally a phrase that I couldn’t resist:

“Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning but there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.”

A copy can be bought on: Amazon

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