A new edition of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is due out in March, 2010. This new edition, advertisements say, includes a new preface by the author.
My copy is copyright 1986, and Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life (1990) is combined in this particular printing. I return to this volume again and again.
This is not a writing how-to, exactly, though it is full of how-tos, as the following two sentences from the chapter "Original Detail":
"Life is so rich, if you can write down the real details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else. Even if you transplant the beveled windows, slow-rotating Rheingold sign, Wise potato chip rack, and tall red stools from the Aero Tavern that you drank in in New York into a bar in a story in another state and time, the story will have authenticity and groundedness."
Goldberg is a teacher as well as a poet, essayist, and novelist, a fact that reflects in every one of her short chapters that weave together a myriad of details about technique and discussion of the reasons for the effort itself. Reading her work is like sitting in conversation with a very talented writer friend.
Robert Pirig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes her as having "the simple style of a Zen archer who looks like he's not even aiming, yet sends arrow after arrow to the bull's-eye time after time."
A few more illustrative quotes:
"The problem is we think we exist."
"Learn to trust the force of your own voice."
"If something works, it works. If it doesn't, quit beating an old horse. Go on writing. Something else will come up. There's enough bad writing in the world. Write one good line, you'll be famous. Write a lot of lukewarm pieces, you'll put people to sleep."