Although I enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing more, which was more concrete and less abstract, Writing Down the Bones had many more plusses than minuses. The title fits because Goldberg takes a page from Strunk and White to “omit needless words,” not burdening hers with excessive description or detail (just a handful of unnecessary quotes).
Goldberg wrote in a nonacademic way, which I appreciated, and the creatively titled chapters were short. I don’t often get a chance to read until the end of the day in bed, so short chapters make finding a stopping place easy.
Though I realize all writers have different experiences regarding their craft, I’ve never heard an imaginary voice telling me I shouldn’t be a writer (Goldberg calls this “monkey mind” in another book, which I find cute and funny). Writing has always been the one thing I’m sure of. I am more likely to think something is good when it isn’t (which I learned years later when rereading some of my old blog posts).
If I had to choose my favorite takeaway from this book, it would be making “verb columns” (pp. 95–97). What a fresh and innovative idea to make verbs pop!
Conversely, I found the excessive references to Katagiri Roshi distracting, especially since most of the quotes didn’t seem to flow into the narrative. However, as a huge humor fan, I appreciated the hilarious list about why one writes (p. 122). This is what Goldberg is good at—writing short.
Through reading books from authors whose fictional works aren’t for me, I’ve discovered that we can learn from experimenting with all kinds of writing and how to write from all kinds of writers.