Writing Down The Bones – Rough Notes

I read this book because of the recommendation regarding free writing. I have found it useful to get the creative juices running when I get up early in the morning and find time to free write but then I don’t know what to write. I will use this book every day for freewriting ideas. It is wonderful

In the chapter A List of Topics for Writing Practice, there is just that: a list that I can pick from when I have a moment to write. I have not used it yet, but it is good to know it is there. When I have used it, I will come back and complete this.

I find that my Editor gets in before the Creator has jumped off the diving board. It can be very frustrating. In Trouble with the Editor, it was a relief to see that I am not the only one with this problem. Next time I have this problem, I will write what the editor is saying. Often though, it is unconscious. I just find myself stalling or my writing is stilted.

Man Eats Car has shown me what metaphor is. When the Creator is taking charge anything can happen. So yes the ant is the elephant. And the door knocker can sneer (I used that in my second assignment). Apparently you have to believe in the metaphor (when the Editor comes knocking). If not, it will sound wrong. But mainly I like the way she say to get out of the way and let the writing come. Just like this morning when I was sitting on the moon with David Bowie. As Goldberg says, “You will leap naturally when you follow your thoughts, because the mind spontaneously takes great leaps”.

I discovered that when I started to write 10 three-lined poems in 30 minutes. My mind leaped from tea to rhyming slang. This, by the way, is a suggestion in A Sensation of Space. I enjoyed that exercise and will definitely do it again and again.

Goldberg encourages us to use original detail as we see it in writing. If I look around my office, I see worn desks, stained floor tiles, and tired assistants. It is the same if my office were in New York. The details are the same wherever and we can use the ones that are close to us. So as we walk through life, we need to note those details. I could do free-writing in the morning and journaling at night after I have had a day of details.

Details are the basic unit of writing, Goldberg tells us. But she goes on to mention that we need to add heat emotions etc to make it interesting. I’m not sure how I do that. I feel like I am a little detached from my writing. Maybe I am not writing about things that I care about. I am writing family stories. I do care about that. In what way? I never knew my grandparents (apart from Rose – and really I did not know her much except that she did not like me much – but there it is – the emotion – I did not feel loved by her – mostly). Writing about Bill and Grace, I feel closer to them. They become alive for me. I have to think about their characters, what motivated them, where they lived, what they ate for breakfast, etc. Those are the details. Then the emotions that happened because of all this. Their story is easy in some ways because he left. He must have been in pain or confused or just plain mean to have left. She must have been devastated when he did.

Goldberg says “caress the details… care about what is around you… let your whole body touch the river … so if you call it yellow or stupid or slow, all of you is feeling it” (Baking a cake). But she does go on to say in Big Concentration that while we are writing all these details about how to “carve… your first spoon out of cedar” you remember that the snow is falling outside or the lady next door is wearing weally weally red lipstick. And remember that 1+1 might equal 4 as she mentions in One Plus One Equals a Mercedes-Benz – when freewriting I find my editor coming in and wanting to make sense or I feel my Editor coming in and wanting to make it interesting – rather than just letting the writing take over and describe myself as “the warrior in a red horse” or however I am feeling. And do it without thinking if it is good or not or makes sense.

Goldberg talks about listening and becoming one with your listening (Listening). This has helped me recently because I have written down things that I hear on bus or in the office, e.g., “by six it could be chilly it could”. But also listening with all of me. She says “listen with your whole body”. I can understand that through my spiritual practice. Notice all things – like why do some people not like others?

There is a good exercise at page 67 Syntax that I will use for freewriting.

In Nervously Sipping Wine, Goldberg talks about Russell Edson and his poem that are crazy and fun. This is something to remember too for freewriting. Write a list of good first lines that are unconventional: “A man wants an aeroplane to like him”. Then write the poem. As she says “dive into absurdity”. Another one for freewriting.

The chapter Make Statements and Answer Questions is about women and language. She mentions that we make states like “The Vietnam war is awful, isn’t it? “I like this, don’t you?” as if we are in some way trying to get permission for our opinions and tastes. Don’t do that! I know I do and it is not always conscious.

Another exercise is Why Do I Write? Which is an exercise is writing down all the reasons I write. Especially when I think that it is a waste of time.

The last couple of exercises that interested me where writing about a meal (A Meal You Love) – something you really do love like bacon sarnies. The other is writing about home and family – “make a list of all the expressions your family uses and incorporate them in your writing”. I will have a field day with Kelly but there are also the nonsense words that my dad has always used like Shlozalbonce (my nick name) and ch ch ch bang as he sits down.

Finally she also said in this book (but I did not note where): “when I have students who have written many pages and… the writing is not all necessarily good but I see they are exploring… I am glad. I know these people will continue and are not just obsessed with “hot” writing”. I feel that she was writing about me here. I keep trying. I keep exploring. I keep wanting to write and fly.

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