Probably everyone who wants to be any kind of writer has already read Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s much cited book about writing. I’m a bit slow to the table here, though I’ve known of the book for quite a while, and I want to encourage others who might have put off reading it to DO IT NOW.
The subtitle is Freeing the Writer Within, and the book lives up to this. I have written two children’s books, three picture books, two Christmas pageants, most of a novel, (all so far unpublished, though the Christmas pageants were a big hit at my home church) and have numerous poems published in many publications, including regular appearances inPasque Petals (by the way, I encourage you to submit to this bi-annual publication – note: put the deadlines of February 1st and August 1st on your calendar, but know that you can submit for the upcoming issue at any time!), and participate annually in NaNoWriMo. But until now, I would not say I’d freed my inner writer, except in occasional bursts.
Ms. Goldberg’s book re-entered my attention at the Wyoming Writers’ conference in early June. A young performance poet named Jovan Mays engaged us in some “hot” writing based on one of her exercises. This lit a spark in me that has found full flame. As luck would have it, I had recently scored my own copy that a library cleaned off its shelves.
I haven’t written every day since I started reading the book, but I’m writing more often and enthusiastically than before. I’ve even gotten ahead of some deadlines, an event so startling to my husband that he had to sit down! Finally, with Ms. Goldberg’s help, I am giving myself permission to simply write, keep writing, and to enjoy the process.
Don’t get me wrong, my problem has never been lack of ideas. All I have to do is go for a walk and images fill my head. The barrier for me has been getting started. The book helped break that barrier. Sometimes, at the end of a chapter, were the words, “Sit down right now. Give me this moment.” As easy as it would have been to remain in my reading chair, I went to my desk and gave myself the time to write. Other chapters talked about tools, methods, environments. Lots of them. No set rules, really, though there is a list on page eight for timed writing practices. But mostly the rule is “Don’t try to control your writing.”
We’ve all heard this in one form or another, I’m sure, such as “Ignore your inner editor.” Right, that’s easy to do…said no writer ever. Instead, Goldberg offers lists and methods to help a writer get the words on the page, and then ideas for what and how to deal with them after that. She deals with “show, don’t tell” and she helps make the process lively. Along the way, Goldberg reminds us why we write and expands possibilities for ways to do that. As she states toward the end of the book, “The writing process is a constant source of life and vitality.” If you’ve lost some of your spark, consider reading/revisiting her book and try some of that “hot” writing!