Writing Down the Bones

When a writer-friend says about a book, “This will find a place next to your copy of Bird by Bird,” You buy it–even if you’re in a really, really bad head space, and you still would rather not follow any good advice. So, a few months ago I bought Writing Down the Bones, started to read it, and decided I hated it.

The premise is that writing is indeed a way into meditation, and quite helpful for the soul, and oh-so-very-good. And everything in me wanted to throw this writing-zen-meditation book across the room. This is my normal reaction to truth that stings. It’s quite mentally aggressive.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there was a connection between zen and the writing process, but I didn’t happen to care in that moment. And because I am not as evolved as you, or most newborns, I did not want to sit with myself, to hear my thoughts, and to sort out the bad from the ugly and the pain from the humor, and get it all down into letters and words. I knew what was there; I did not want to pen it down.

[Note: this is a tell tale sign that you should be writing.]

There was a little bit of shame, a good dose of pain, a smidge of hopelessness mixed up with insecurities, and a lot of self-doubt and brooding.  These are the times when I–in a clearly objective state–determine I am not social enough, or generous enough, or smart enough, or polite enough, and that my writing is mostly crap, and my driving is very bad, and I’m not quite qualified to do most things, or anything, really. Except sleep. Well, sleep and watch movies.

In essence, every un-truth and half-truth worked its way into my consciousness and I pretended the past few weeks weren’t their own kind of awful and my life was merely shit. This is what it is like inside my head when my feelings are hurt: I’m utterly irrational and weepy. I am not unique in this way.

So, of course, these are the times when meditation is best, and most necessary, and when we (or maybe just me) are the least likely to want to participate in any sort of self development and yoga-ness. Yet, meditation will seep into where it is needed. It will sneak into the act of writing, and move through the wisdom of others, and even turn running into it’s own type of  focused breathing exercise.

So my Honest Adult Book Review of Writing Down the Bones is that it was completely necessary, utterly annoying, and moved through me in all the right places. It reminded me that there is power in the words we share, the stories we live, and the truths we underline, highlight, and keep. It got me to write in the middle of sadness and fear and vulnerability, which is the best time (as is any time) to get feelings onto paper.

It is precisely the type of story that gets good books thrown at walls, and then picked up and read properly.


  • I too know that feeling of wanting to throw a book across the room. Then the reluctant acknowledgment of needing to read what is in it. *Grumble*

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