The Red Couch: Writing Down the Bones INTRODUCTION


N_RED-COUCHWhat’s your story?

The story about the kind of morning you’ve had or that pivotal moment 12 years ago that changed everything or how you met your best friend or that time you hitchhiked across state lines or why you prefer to shop at this grocery store over that one.

We all have stories. They inform who we are and how we guide our days. But we don’t often think of ourselves as storytellers.

We don’t often think of ourselves as writers. Even those of us who blog don’t always claim that title.

And yet, by virtue of being alive, we are. So says Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones.

Whether or not you journal, blog, or write in the most writerly sense of that word, I hope you’ll give this month’s book a chance. Goldberg’s wisdom about writing holds insights for all of us. It may inspire you to tell a certain part of your life story in the pages of a journal or over coffee with a friend. It may help you become better acquainted with yourself. It may help you recognize the beauty in your every day.

“I don’t think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories–of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.” p. xii

“You are exposing your life, not how your ego would like to see you represented, but how you are as a human being. And it is because of this that I think writing is religious. It splits you open and softens your heart toward the homely world.” p. 40

“We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand.” p. 47

There are many ways to read this book. Most of the chapters are only a page or two long and some of them contain writing prompts. You may want to purchase a notebook and follow these prompts. Or you may want to simply read and reflect as you go. (That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m pretty happy with the brainstorming that’s resulted.) You don’t even have to read Writing Down the Bones in any particular order.

The book was published almost 30 years ago but it remains uncannily relevant. Goldberg is an accomplished writer and teacher. She has also studied meditation and these ideas are reflected on some of the pages. Is there a relationship between writing and meditation? I wouldn’t have thought of it prior to picking up this book but now it seems so clear. I understand not everyone is comfortable with the idea of meditation, particularly when it’s attached to Zen Buddhism. Goldberg isn’t teaching Zen meditation in these pages. But we shouldn’t forget the role meditation can play in Christianity.

Meditation can be a way of drawing nearer to God, quieting the wild rumpus of our minds, and overcoming negative thinking. All of which no doubt can help us better share our stories.

Because we do have stories worth being told, whether it’s the quiet faithfulness of a 35-year-long career at the same job, the cacophony of spilled cheerios, crying babes, and neverending laundry, a hiking trip through the Grand Canyon, or the time you said yes and it changed everything.

Read along. Write if you want. Embrace your inner storyteller. We’re waiting to hear what only you can say.

Come back Wednesday, Nov. 26 for our discussion post with Cara Meredith. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. On Twitter, the official Red Couch Book Club hashtag is #redcouchbc.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

*Recommended by Leigh Kramer and Kelley Nikondeha

Will you be reading Writing Down the Bones with us?

* DisclosureΒ : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.Β  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Leigh Kramer
Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee, followed by San Francisco, quit steady job as a social worker to chase her dreams of writing, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.
Leigh Kramer

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  1. Dorathea Maynard says:

    Yay! I’m reading my copy! Can you tell I’m excited about this one? πŸ™‚

  2. Lori Burleson says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, Leigh, and your description of this book has brought me out of hiding. Once upon a time I had a blog but “life” got in the way and I shut it down. Though I’m not a creative writer in any sense of the word, I do enjoy putting my thoughts and feelings down on paper. Your introduction to this work has peaked my interest so I’m here to follow along. I’m not sure I’ll have anything profound to add to the discussion but sure I’ll learn something along the way. Do I just get a copy of the book and start reading on my own now? My “aim-to-please” personality wants to make sure I do it “right.” πŸ™‚

    • I’m glad to hear you’ll be joining us, Lori! I hope this book will inspire and encourage you. You got it right: get a copy, read along, and then come back for the discussion on the 26th.

    • Dorathea Maynard says:

      Yay, Lori! I feel like this too a bit. I went to school to learn how to write fiction, and then floundered after graduation until I just stopped. But I still want to write; I still love it. I like blogging, too, but somehow never do. Here’s to coming out of hiding together. πŸ™‚

  3. O! It’s definitely time for a reread. I’m excited to follow along with discussions. πŸ™‚


  4. My favourite favourite writing book … Loved that you picked this one.

  5. I just picked it up at the library today. πŸ™‚

  6. I love, love, LOVE this book! I read it years ago,when the only writing I did was in my journal. I’ve read many of Natalie’s books, and love them. I’m not necessarily someone who reads about Zen, but her words on meditation really have helped me think about my writing process. So, so glad we’re reading this book together. I’m also looking forward to hearing about other writer’s processes and journeys. Love the quotes you included here Leigh – thank you! (I’m going back and underlining things I didn’t glean the first few times around.) πŸ™‚

  7. This was a gift from Idelette year ago – and it is a favorite! I started scribbling right in the margins, I couldn’t contain the words once I started reading. I hope this does unleash the inner storyteller for the friends in our community…it did for me!

  8. Caroline Starr Rose says:

    I’ve always felt a kinship with this book, as it was written when Goldberg hung out in Taos, just north of my hometown.

  9. Mindi Ferguson says:

    I’ve got to shout out Elora Nicole and her Story Sessions 101 for introducing me to Natalie Goldberg through “Wild Mind.” I loved it and “Writing Down the Bones” is next on my list, so I’m going to try to read it this month with SheLoves — perfect timing! There’ve been a lot of reminders coming up for me lately that meditation is something I need to revisit and purposefully reintegrate into my life, and I love how you express that here, Leigh!

    • Wild Mind is such a great book too! I read that one right after Writing Down the Bones, and liked it just as much. I’m also really enjoying her latest book on writing, The True Secret of Writing. I’ve also heard from writers I respect that they loved her book on writing memoir, Old Friend From Far Away. These are all linked above, thanks to Leigh! πŸ™‚

    • I hope you’ll enjoy Writing Down the Bones, Mindi, and that Goldberg’s references to meditation will resonate with you.

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