“Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Since its first publication in 1986, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has inspired writers around the world. Her strong insights and unconventional approach encourages everyone, from beginner to professional, to put pen to paper and find creative freedom.
This is not like most of the writing books published over the last thirty years. Goldberg doesn’t get into the usual topics like plotting, character creation, or finding an agent. Instead, her work focusses on the idea of writing as a path to self-knowledge, and is heavily influenced by the many ears she has spent practicing as a Zen Buddhist. This is a book about writing as process, not product.
One of the core messages of the work is the importance of writing a little every day. She advocates for writing as a daily practice, in which the writer should tap into their raw and unfiltered thoughts. Free writing without editing, Goldberg promises, can be a powerful tool for unearthing buried memories, suppressed emotions, and untapped creativity.
Goldberg dismisses the idea that writing is something that is open only to those with some kind of a gift. She shares her personal experiences and struggles as a writer, dispelling both the image of the tortured artist and the myth of ease. Self-compassion is an essential prerequisite of her recipe for creativity.
Writing Down the Bones is structured as a series of short, digestible chapters, making it easy to dip in and out of as needed. Each chapter is filled with practical exercises, anecdotes, and thought-provoking reflections, all in Goldberg’s conversational, open style. She encourages writers to take a mindful approach to life by connecting with their surroundings, observing the world around them, and infusing their writing with vivid imagery.
For inspiration, here are some writing exercises inspired by Writing Down the Bones:
- Exploring memories: pick a vivid childhood memory and write about the sensory details associated with it.
- Writing in the moment: spend a few moments focussing on your immediate surroundings, then write down the details of what you see, feel, hear, and smell, in a stream of consciousness style.
- Compost material: make a list of 10 things you’d like to write about, no matter how big or small.