Writing Down the Bones is another seminal work all writers are supposed to read, but I found it to be a lot like Bird by Bird where the writer is expected to really struggle to put pen to paper and expose their inner truths. Both authors describe students crying and shaking as they write. To them, writing is a calling, a torturous, deep calling, more like therapy than entertainment.
Ms. Goldberg, while determined to reach that human condition of life, death, and the traumatic events in between, also gives some glimpses of her writing journey, much of it influenced by geography. As a Jew and a Buddhist, she brings some interesting insights into her writing process. She discusses classes, critique groups, and stumbling blocks. The most important bit of wisdom for me was learning that putting a sentence together correctly isn’t great writing. Ms. Goldberg wants us to expand our borders and try new things. She likes travel and engages with who and where she is. She recommends all writers leave their desks occasionally to experience the real world and use it to improve your writing. Live alone, live with someone, try everything. She even recommended one writer friend change her day job to stretch her boundaries.
Amidst baring her writing soul, Ms. Goldberg sprinkles in a little humor, some failures, and a generally optimistic attitude. Write for yourself and the rest will follow.
As with Bird by Bird, I question how all this angst helps me with my spaceship and little green men stories, but like Ray Bradbury says in Zen in the Art of Writing, personal truths make the best stories.
But what kinds of stories are these people writing that takes this kind of teeth clenching and self-exposure to put truth to paper?