Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing Down the Bones

It’s late on Friday night, I am sleepy, and sitting in the quiet space of our back yard cabin.  The small room is filling up with wisps of smoke, mingling with the wisps of my inspiration, as the woodstove is crackling with fire, and too much heat is pouring out.  I know as soon as I stop putting wood on and lay down to sleep, it won’t be long before the cold outside seeps in and wakes me.

I said I would review a book once a week, on Friday’s, and here it is Friday night, and I have yet to give my opinionated view on some other poor struggling writer’s work.  I am not on an official book review circuit, and frankly, I am not sure I want to be.  I want to write. Reading other people’s work is a huge help towards understanding, but it is not something I want to focus my energy on every day.  So, we’ll stick with once a week for now.
I am just about to the end of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  (Shambala Publications.  Boston, MA, 1986.)  A friend recommended it to me ten years ago, back when I didn’t know I was a writer.  And here I am, all these years later, finally reading it.  It is, of course, a classic when it comes to texts about writing.  Goldberg is a pro at piecing together words and stories that make everything become clearer and make you think, Oh I knew that!  She said so eloquently what I was thinking.  And when you are trying to understand good writing style, this aha moment is a wonderful motivator.
I have found myself taking her suggestions to heart and practicing with her ideas. Writing is a tough pursuit, and the publishing world a business not for the faint hearted. The biggest inspiration is her Zen attitude that practice really does make perfect. I like that.
I recently read her essay about haiku, and thought I would give it a go here.  It has probably been since fifth grade that I have written a haiku.  You can play teacher and give me a grade at the end.

Breath rises and falls.

   A flower blooms as I write.
My heart is suppressed.

The fire fades out.
   Expansion. Crackling remains,
as I reach across.

Whether I write an A+ haiku or one that squeaks by on credit only for being turned in, I think I will always go back to Goldberg’s book filled with writerly essays.  She preaches and proves that however good or bad we think our words are, writing is an art.  One to be desired, delighted in, and slow baked with a touch love and a grain of salt.  I can relate to that, and I appreciate it.

She also advises to “give yourself tremendous space to wander in, to be utterly lost with no name, then come back and speak.”  And here we are.


Kelly Hashway said...

Hi, Amanda. I found you through She Writes and I'm your newest follower. Very nice blog. I look forward to visiting often. If you'd like, you can check out my blog:

Monica Devine said...

Hello! I am interested in joining a writing group with you and others; it sounds like our interests mesh; i write about nature, art, the act of writing, and photography. I've authored 4 children's books, with another on the way in Fall 2012. Currently working on memoir. Check out my site to see if we'd be a good fit.