Round Robin Blog Fest October 2020


Welcome back to another fun installment of the Round Robin Blog Fest!
While I'm writing this, there is a strong breeze blowing all the colorful maple leaves off the trees and my cat who is part Siamese is howling to get out there to chase them.

Today's question is:  "What is/are your favorite book(s) of all time in your favorite genre(s)? (You can include children's books or non-fiction or even magazines.)

When an extended family member learned that I loved to write, they gave me a lovely, encouraging book for Christmas 1993. "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg quickly became one of my favorite, most dog-earred books of all time. In fact, my copy is adorned with post-it notes, hi-lighter and pen marks and scrap paper notebooks.

Years later, and a move across Canada to Ontario, I discovered a little writing group whose whole framework was based on Natalie Goldberg's concepts. It seems a couple of the founding members had been part of a different group with a man who had studied in Taos, New Mexico with Natalie. They based their group on the principles of reading your work aloud and doing free-writing to prompts to get their creative juices going. Many of my novels were added to or started using the free-writing prompts.

Each meeting, we practiced doing these timed exercises. We set ten to fifteen minutes aside, as time allowed, chose a prompt from the list provided by the leader that day, then wrote using the following rules:
  1. Keep your hand moving (don't pause to reread.)
  2. Don't cross out (this is editing as you right.)
  3. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar (or lines or margins...)
  4. Lose control (write what comes up.)
  5. Don't think. Don't get logical.
  6. Go for the jugular. (even if something comes up that is scary or naked, dive right in.)
Our first thoughts have tremendous power. They are the reason Julia Cameron suggests in her book "The Artist's Way" (another favorite!) writing Morning Pages to "prime the pump" and get writing. To get into the flow and get the debris out of your head before you get down to serious creating.

The chapter in "Writing Down the Bones" that I love the most is called, "Living Twice."

Yes. I am one of those writers who will walk in the rain. Over the years, my mind has become trained to "record" feelings, sensations, and experiences so I can relive them on paper. Because of the free-writing exercises and trying to write with three kids underfoot, I have learned to write in short bursts. My short bursts, however, usually generate more pages in novels or whole new short stories.

While I don't read "Writing Down the Bones" as often as I used to, I still drag it off the shelf from time to time when I need a little inspiration.

Let's see what books our other writers treasure, shall we?


  1. I've heard this book mentioned before but never followed up - I think it's time to hop on over to Amazon and look it up. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Ah yes, I graduated with my degree in teaching English, having done an honors colloquium on the teaching of writing, way back when free-writing was all the rage. I still love it, telling students even now that they need to "Barf it out quickly, clean it up later." It always makes them laugh. But the point is, if you let your grammar worries or fear of the blank page stop you, you'll never write anything. You need to get your ideas down quickly. Anyone can help you edit the words--but no one else can reach into your ear and pull your thoughts and ideas out. Once you get them out, the editing part is easy.

  3. I believe the Canadian author W.O. Mitchell used the 'barf it out quickly' method, often referred to as freefall and Nora Roberts stated you can't edit a blank page. I have a pocket edition of Writing Down the Bones, given to me by my first writing mentor. Her recommendation was that if I was stuck, just open the book at any page and whatever you read on that page would help get going again. Just for curiosity I just did that and what came up? 'As writers we are always seeking support.' Thanks, Natalie!

  4. I know about the general concepts but have never read this book. It wouldn't work for my obsessive mind. I even edit my emails unless it's 3 a.m.!
    But then, I don't compose stories. I allow the ideas to cook, and when they are ready, out they come and all I need to do is to record them.

  5. I'd forgotten about that book. Great tips. I attended an online workshop and purchased "The Author's Checklist" by Elizabeth K. Kracht.

    Her workshop was very informative and I found her book a good reference for even for a multi-pubbed author

  6. that's really interesting, Diane. also, you've settled on one - whereas most of the rest of us couldn't do that. I needed sevearla and even after that selection, I felt the gaps caused by leaving out others. anne

  7. Interesting book! I'm someone who hasn't read it. I have non-fictions books that are also highlighted and full of post it notes.

  8. Yes! One of my favorite books on writing too. Also Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

    JQ Rose


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