Whenever I talk to another writer about my current plans, they inevitably recommend that I read Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve had the book on my shelf for months and finally was in the mood.
The great thing about this book is that each chapter has a self-contained message. So, I have scribbling down her underlying message and I’ll share them with you here.
1. Set up your writing system, whether its the right pen and notebook, or coffee shop and laptop. The goal is choose the method that least slows you down so those words can flow.
2. Turn off your critic on your first draft. (This also happens to be advice given by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird–the shitty first draft). Her advice seems to say we should NaNoWriMo all year long.
3. Practice writing every day, be in the moment with your thoughts, don’t try to control them. If you let go of control, your voice will come all on it’s own.
4. Compost! Let your ideas and thoughts spin and churn. Eventually, you’ll get fertile soil.
5. Trust the writing process, stick with it, and you will improve.
6. Keep a running list of writing topics so that you’ll never feel blocked. You’ll always have a place to turn for a quick start.
7. Write. Don’t argue with yourself about when you’re going to do it, or why you’re not. Just do it. Use rewards, deadlines, a buddy, whatever it takes to just get writing.
8. Learn to hear and recognize your inner editor so you can more efficiently ignore it. (my inner editor just asked me whether I should change this to “recognize and hear” instead–I just told the bitch to shut up. )
9. Write about what’s in front of you and expand thereafter.
10. Don’t read about writing as a way to learn to write. Just write (no, I didn’t stop reading the book right there, but I did put it down to re-work on a chapter).
Goldberg’s approach is simple and I like that. This is a fast, informative read. It’s interesting that she uses a lot of examples from her life to color these themes, including Buddhist teachings, quotes, and a variety of poetry.
I’m a third of the way through, so there will be a Part 2 (at least) in the next couple weeks.
I will be working it in around my plans to enter my first writing contest since 5th grade (which I won!). By Feb. 18 I will enter the first 27 pages of my memoir, along with an amazing synopsis, in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest. I have a couple friends who were finalists in the contest last year and they very much recommend the experience, which includes feedback from at least two people, one of which might be a literary agent.
This week I’ll be learning what qualities make a good synopsis. Will let you know what I find out.