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Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within [Paperback]

Natalie Goldberg
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 6 2005
For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —"it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind."

This new edition, which marks almost twenty years since the original book's publication, includes a new preface in which Goldberg expresses her trademark enthusiasm for writing practice, as well as a depth of appreciation for the process that has come with time and experience. Also included is an interview with the author in which she reflects on the relationship between Zen sitting practice and writing, the importance of place, and the power of memory.

Frequently Bought Together

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within + Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life + On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft
Price For All Three: CDN$ 39.63


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Review

"I'm convinced that none of the writers of my acquaintance can go another day without a copy of Natalie Goldberg's magical manual Writing Down the Bones."—Linda Weltner, The Boston Globe

"The secret of creativity, Natalie Goldberg makes clear, is to subtract rules for writing, not add them. It's a process of 'uneducation' rather than education. Proof that she knows what she's talking about is abundant in her own sentences. They flow with speed and grace and accuracy and simplicity. It looks easy to a reader, but writers know it is the hardest writing of all."—Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

About the Author

Natalie Goldberg is the author of ten books. Writing Down the Bones, her first, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. For the last thirty years she has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice. She lives in New Mexico.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within Aug. 22 2009
Format:Paperback
I purchased this book after it had been recommended to me by several of my writing friends. I was looking forward to sinking my teeth in to it and being inspired. However, after just a few short chapters, I realised that the book lacked substance, was poorly written and, quite often, repetitive. Although Ms. Goldberg is obviously passionate about her writing and has some good exercise suggestions to help get one's creative juices flowing, I was distracted by poor sentence structure and flimsy anecdotes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What can I say, I believe I've said it all prior. This once again
stood up to my expectations. I'm absolutely pleased with this
purchase.....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book Jan. 1 2011
Format:Paperback
I can't recommend Natalie Goldberg's book "Writing Down the Bones" enough. This is a great book and every aspiring writer should take the time and read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  322 reviews
160 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Writing Classic April 24 2004
By Kay Porterfield - Published on Amazon.com
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.
446 of 509 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag of Bones Dec 5 2001
By J. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
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. In my opinion she crossed over the line of reason too often in the book to put forth her spiritual views. It was like a one day seminar that gets you pumped up, but then you get home and review your notes, and realize, sadly, that it was mainly hype with very little substance. I can summarize her tome with three bullet points: Be true to thine ownself. Always observe the world around you. Make writing a habit in your life.
181 of 204 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a good book, but overrated. Dec 28 1999
By Andy Babb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A few months ago, around the time when I bought Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones', I was just starting to consider myself a serious writer. At first, I was attracted to Goldberg's warm and friendly voice and I felt like a member of her free-spirited writing posse, along for the magic carpet ride, venturing to far away cafes. I once thought of this book in the same frame of mind that so many kind, uncritical reviewers here have; as a kind of 'writer's bible.' Now that I am a few months older and wiser, I am able to see that the book is just a string of well-meaning encouragements that when putting pen-to-paper, are not as instrumental and helpful as you might think. One good thing happened as a result of my reading this book; I have made writing a practice, using notebooks as Natalie suggested.
The best, and if I may say, most fruitful and promising path to good writing is reading the words of those who have walked before us. Read and absorb the styles of others, THEN let the pen write directly and honestly from your heart. Write your own 'writer's bible.'
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Good I Couldn't Put It Down Aug. 31 2001
By Stogie Chomper - Published on Amazon.com
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.
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a guide to releasing your soul Aug. 23 2002
By K. Twitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this book on recommendations from other writers and journal keepers, but I was openly apprehensive that it would be just another "you can do it" or worse another pontification on the divine art of writing. I couldn't have been more wrong!
Of all the how-to writing books I have read, all the while looking for that one filled with honest, practical advice to help shake loose my creativity free from the confines of English class rules and order, this is the best one out there. Natalie starts out telling you that it isn't an ordered process that fuels creativity. She lets you know up front that all those rules and "regulations" that you learned in every English class you ever took don't apply in real creativity.
She takes you step by step, holding your hand thruout, thru a creative storm complete with exercises designed to frighten and enlighten. In the end you realize that you are, indeed, a creative person when not confined to the traditional definitions of creativity and art.
I felt I could do anything, write anything, and create anything when I was done with this book. I read it straight thru in an afternoon and then went back over the period of a week and did the exercises. I still go back, months later, re-working the exercises, reading favourite chapters, and reminding myself of the wonderful wellspring of creativity in all of us.
I highly recommend this book to anyone frustrated with the traditional "this is how to be creative" books that so many of us have trudged thru in desperate hopes of finding a single grain of enlightenment. Natalie gives it to you in page after page of insight, comfort, and freedom. You won't be disappointed - unless, of course, you really do like all those ridiculous rules and regulations.
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