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Natalie Goldberg (born 4 January 1948) is an American popular author and speaker.
Writing Down the Bones (1986)
- A million-plus readers have followed Natalie's bold plunge into the world of words. "Just dive in," urges Natalie, teaching, "Begin where you are." […] "Keep your hand moving," she commands. "Don't cross out, don't worry about spelling, punctuation, and grammar, lose control, don't think, don't get logical, go for the jugular."
"Include original detail," Natalie urges her students.
- Foreword to the 30th Anniversary Edition (July 2015), by Julia Cameron. p.xi [Page numbers here are from the 30th Anniversary Edition, 2016.]
- You tell the truth and you depict it in detail.
- Foreword to the 2nd Edition (December 2004), by Natalie Goldberg. p.xxiii
- I went home with the resolve to write what I knew and to trust my own thoughts and feelings and to not look outside myself. I was not in school anymore: I could say what I wanted.
- Introduction. at p.2
- Learning to write is not a linear process. There is no logical A-to-B-to-C way to become a good writer. One neat truth about writing cannot answer it all. There are many truths. […] Some techniques are appropriate at some times and some for other times. Every moment is different. Different things work. One isn't wrong and the other right.
In class we try different techniques or methods.
- Introduction. at p.4
- First, consider the pen your write with.
Think, too, about your notebook. […] A cheap spiral notebook lets you feel that you can fill it quickly and afford another. Also, it is easy to carry.
- Essay, "Beginner's mind, pen and paper". p.5, 6
- The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.
1. Keep your hand moving.
2. Don't cross out.
3. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
4. Lose control.
5. Don't think. Don't get logical.
6. Go for the jugular.
[…] That is the discipline: to continue to sit.
- Essay, "First thoughts". p.8, 9
- This is the practice school of writing. Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. […] You practice whether you want to or not.
Through practice you actually do get better.
Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say "I am free to write the worst junk in the world." You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination.
- Essay, "Writing as a practice". p.11
- It is a good idea to have a page in your notebook where you jot down, as they come to you, ideas of topics to write about. […] Add to the list any time you think of something. Then when you sit down to write, you can just grab a topic from that list and begin.
Making a list is good. It makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship with your life and its texture.
[...] Naturally, once you begin writing you might be surprised where your mind takes the topic. That's good. You are not trying to control your writing. You are stepping out of the way. Keep your hand moving.
- Essay, "A list of topics for writing practice". p.21, 22
- Don't worry about your talent or capability: that will grow as you practice. […] If you want to write a novel, write a novel. If it's essays you want or short stories, write them. In the process of writing them, you will learn how. You can have the confidence that you will gradually acquire the technique and craft you need.
[…] We learn writing by doing it. That simple.
- Essay, "Tap the water table". p.32
- Of course, you can sit down and have something you want to say. But then you must let its expression be born in you and on the paper. Don't hold too tight; allow it to come out how it needs to rather than trying to control it.
- Essay, "Writing is not a McDonald's hamburger". p.39
- Use original detail in your writing. Life is so rich, if you can write down the real details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else.
- Essay, "Original detail". p.45
- In a rainstorm, everyone quickly runs down the street with umbrellas, raincoats, newspapers over their heads. Writers go back outside in the rain with a notebook in front of them and a pen in hand. They look at the puddles, watch them fill, watch the rain splash in them.
- Essay, "Living twice". p.53
- Writers move with grace in and out of many worlds.
- Essay, "Writers have good figures". p.56
- Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot. […]
If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.
- Essay, "Listening". p.59
- Be specific. "Don't say "fruit". Tell what kind of fruit.
Learn the names of everything: birds, cheese, tractors, cars, buildings.
- Essay, "Be specific". p.77
- As writers we have to walk in the world in touch with that present, alert part of ourselves, that animal sense part that looks, sees, and notices - street signs, corners, fire hydrants, newspaper stands.
- Essay, "Be an animal". p.91
- The world isn't always black and white. A person may not be sure if she can go some place, but it is important, especially for a beginning writer, to make clear, assertive statements. "This is good." "It was a blue horse." Not "Well, I know it sounds funny but I think it was a blue horse."
[…] After I read the article, I went home and looked at a poem I had just written. I made myself take out all the vague, indefinite words and phrases. […] It made the poem much better.
- Essay, "Make statements and answer questions". p.93, 94
- If you want a room to write in, just get a room. Don't make a big production out of it. If it doesn't leak, has a window, heat in the winter, then put in your desk, bookshelves, a soft chair, and start writing.
- Essay, "The writing studio". p.103
- Writers write about things that other people don't pay much attention to. […] A writer's job is to make the ordinary come alive, […]
When we live in a place for too long, we grow dull. We don't notice what is around us. That is why a trip is so exciting. We are in a new place and see everything in a fresh way.
- Essay, "A tourist in your own town". p.108
- Just write. Just write. Just write. [...]
When we are in the heart of writing it doesn't matter where we are. We can write anyplace.
- Essay, "Write anyplace". p.110, 111
- Push yourself beyond when you think you are done with what you have to say. […] It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.
- Essay, "Go further". p.112
- What is important is not just what you do - "I am writing a book" - but how you do it, how you approach it, and what you come to value.
[…] There are many realities. We should remember this when we get too caught in being concerned about the way the rest of the world lives or how we think they live.
- Essay, "Every Monday". p.127
- Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak. Then come back.
Don't worry. You won't have lost time. Your energy will be more direct and less wasted.
- Essay, "The Goody Two-Shoes Nature". p.140
- See the big picture. You are committed to writing or finding out about it. Continue under all circumstances. Don't be rigid though.
- Essay, "No hindrances". p.145
- But last night we started to work with the Samurai. Tom brought in a loosely finished piece, xeroxed copies, and we went over it. First of all, we looked for where there was energy. It was mainly in the third paragraph. William Carlos Williams said to Allen Ginsberg: "If only one line in the poem has energy, then cut the rest out and leave only that one line." That one line is the poem. Poetry is the carrier of life, the vessel of vitality. Each line should be alive. Keep those parts of a piece; get rid of the rest.
[…] it's where our writing is burning through to brilliance that it finally becomes a poem or prose piece. And anyone can hear the difference. Something that comes from the source, from first thoughts, wakes and energises everyone. I've seen it many times in a writing group. When someone reads a really hot piece, it excites everyone.
Be willing to look at your work honestly. If something works, it works. If it doesn't, quit beating an old horse. Go on writing. Something else will come up. There's enough bad writing in the world. Write one good line, you'll be famous. Write a lot of lukewarm pieces, you'll put people to sleep.
- Essay, "The Samurai". p.169, 170-171
- As you reread, circle whole sections that are good in your notebooks. They often glow off the page and are obvious. […]
Naturally, there should be a place for editing and revision, but when we hear the word editor, we think, "Okay. I let the creator in me go wild, but now I'm going to get back to the proper, conventional, rational state of mind and finally get things in order." We bring out the man or woman in a tweed suit from the East Coast with a doctorate in literature who is critical of everything. Don't do that. That person in the tweed suit is just another disguise for the ego that is trying to get control of things any way it can. […] Instead, when you go over your work, become a Samurai, a great warrior with the courage to cut out anything that is not present.
- Essay, "Rereading and rewriting". p.174-175
- Anything we fully do is an alone journey. […] You are alone when you write a book. Accept that and take in any love and support that is given to you, but don't have expectations of how it is supposed to be.
- Epilogue. p.179, 180
- We give a lot of names to our excuses, to the reasons we don't want to write or we're afraid to. Finally, if you want to write, you have to just shut up, pick up a pen, and do it. I'm sorry there are no true excuses. Shut up and write.
[…] It's pretty nice to be talented. If you are, enjoy, but it won't take you that far. Work takes you a lot further.
[…] In writing I have confidence. Because I say I'm going to do it and I do it. That's all. Writing is the one thing in my life I continually show up for. I have given 100 percent to writing practice. That's what builds confidence.
[…] Don't be tossed away by your monkey mind. … These little voices are constantly going to be nagging at us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don't be tossed away. … Don't be thrown off by yourself or anyone else. Let your big mind move forward.
- from Q&A section at the end of the book, adapted from an interview between the author and Tami Simon of Sounds True. p.183. 184. 193. 194