Writing Down The Bones: Listening to Natalie Goldberg Read Her First Book Has Been An Inspiration

Just shut up and write.

Goldberg’s simplification of what a writer must do is brilliant, and, embarrassing enough, quite necessary.  Writers! How ridiculous we can be, whining on and on about how difficult it is to find the time, to track down the muses, to hammer out a structure, to blah blah blah. Shut up already!

My favorite way to experience a book, as of late, is to hear the author read it. In this particular version found on Audible, Goldberg’s New York flavored accent is gorgeously calm—a result, no doubt, of decades of zen practice. The voice itself is enough, but couple it with the insight she shares and you’ve got near perfection. I wonder if she realized the possibilities at the outset of the reading project fourteen years after writing the book?

Throughout Writing Down the Bones Goldberg shares the sharp wisdom of her long-time zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi, along with her experiences as both a writing workshop leader and a writer. Regardless of just how terrific her own youthful wisdom seems, in response to an interview question at the end of the book she goes on to share what trouble there was with putting together all this information into book format.

There was everything in piles of notebooks, clear memories, a shining zen attitude, and she still couldn’t get it together without wrestling herself to the ground. It was reading another zen teacher’s book in which she finally found the desired, effective structure. Isn’t that something?

I listened to the bulk of the book with ear buds at work, slogging through data entry. The first stroke of inspiration came in the very first “session” in which Goldberg talks about her favorite way to write—she fills one notebook a month, using a favored ink pen. For the first time in a year, I went right out and bought myself nice pens and a notebook. That was December 30th, and I’ve written SOMETHING every single day since.

As it has happened before, my choices are all over the place. One day it’s a diary-like entry, another it’s a scene from one story I’ve struggled with, another is research on idiotic political current events, another it’s an off the cuff poem, and so on. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be listening to the book again, this time taking notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could actually blog about each bit of inspiration and share the results?





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