There are four books in my lap. #4: Writing Down the Bones

If you'd like to start at the beginning of this four-part series, go here.

Cindi's mom turned me onto this book back when I was dabbling in some serious journal writing, trying to figure out whether writing was ever going to become a big part of my professional future or not. That was long, long before all three of us - friend, her mom, or I -  had landed our unsurprising ADD diagnoses, but at a time when we'd nevertheless all three concurred that Great Gobs Of Creativity was a mandatory ingredient to a fulfilling life.

I devoured Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones then, and went on to read it again more times than I can now recall, in the years that followed.

Last week I came across this book while looking for something or other, in storage, and brought it home, realizing it's been way too long since I've read it. Last night when a writer-friend emailed to see if I'd like to meet her somewhere today so we could write together, she told me she's been reading Natalie Goldberg and has been craving more "cafe time" with a simple notebook in front of her instead of a laptop. Clearly it was a sign of some sort. So I met my friend and we both wrote in long-hand on lined paper in the spiral notebooks we both brought with us, keeping our hands moving (mostly) for satisfying stretches of time, just like Natalie taught us. :)

Natalie Goldberg is the first person who ever boldly suggested to me that publication is not what makes me a writer but, instead, that writing is what makes me a writer. Writing a lot, whether it's any good or not, whether I'm in the mood or not, will make me a writer. And this spoke to me loudly since I'd never been published. But writing? Now that I'd done. Year after year, writing my thoughts and observations, crafting sentences, weaving stories intertwined with reflections in the messes that were my journals and notebooks, I continued. And one day those scribbles turned into blog posts. And now I'm working on a novel and a piece of non-fiction, too, and I will always and forever think of Natalie Goldberg (and Gwen Heusel, the messenger who brought her to me in the first place,) when I think of myself as a writer.

Read this:

Original details are very ordinary, except to the mind that sees extraordinariness. It's not that we need to go to the Hopi mesas to see greatness; we need to view what we already have in a different way. It is very deep for the Hopis to have a snake dance, but it also is one of their festivals that has been performed every other year for their whole lives. Like any other dance, when it was over, they invited friends to their homes for dinner. If we see their lives and festivals as fantastic and our lives as ordinary, we come to writing with a sense of poverty. We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary. It is our minds that either open or close. Details are not good or bad. They are details. (From the chapter entitled "The Ordinary and Extraordinary")

And in my blogging life as much as my book-writing life, I needed to reread these words right now, because one of the loudest critics in my head tells me, often when I sit down to write, that there's nothing interesting to write, that my life is so dull and ordinary, and the lives of others are twinged with rings of light and echo with perfectly blended harmonies. Not so. Life is life, and it's time to start looking at mine with as much wonder and expectation as I look at yours.

This lesson, and so many more more, is what I will re-remember as I read this book again. Along with the other three I've been telling you about. But unlike the others, I've read this one countless times, and I can tell you from experience: this is one that's worth owning for yourself, if you're one of Those Writer Types. You'll want to highlight and make notes in the margins.

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