Writing Activities from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

I have started reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I completed a few of her brainstorming activities below:

1. List of Obsessions – things you just can’t keep out of your head. Don’t repress them; write about them as compost or composition!


  • Comparing myself to others
  • My cat
  • How perfect my family is
  • How unfair my husband is at times
  • Interesting details of my world
  • Nature
  • Grammar
  • Bathroom experiences

Write for five minutes:

I genuinely believe that my family is perfect. Sure, every family has its faults, and ours might just be how perfect we see ourselves. It regularly comes up in cousin conversations. The fact that we label many activities “cousin” activities should tell you something too. Just to give you some idea of how perfect we are, let me list some reasons: We all chose humanitarian careers, we all are high achievers, we all have a strong tendency toward moral goodness, we are all beautiful and intelligent, we all have high self-esteem and high self-worth, and we all love each other. We’re catty sometimes, and sometimes intimidated by the perfection of each other – at least I am. However, somewhere in our gene pool and the collective wisdom of our parents, our family has produced some remarkable offspring.

2. Mixing up language – Goldberg recommends that we give honor to the things of this world besides ourselves. Our writing sometimes surround US rather than all of the other items in our world. She suggests listing nouns, covering them up, and writing verbs that relate to a profession.

Nouns                                                                                                Verbs related to a photographer




Hot tub

Ugly tan pillows with geometric patterns that match so perfectly

Light switch










Holds down






  • The dandelions snap furiously as I pass by, trying to capture every movement of this moment.
  • Crickets focus on the dimming light, searching for just the right moment to begin their gollumping chorus.
  • The stairway searches up into the darkness.
  • The window watches life inside and life outside, forever doomed to be both and neither.
  • The ugly tan pillows with green geometric patterns that match so perfectly align themselves on the couch, waiting for their fate, hoping, like orphans, that they will not be left behind.

Writing for five minutes:

The ugly tan pillows with green geometric patterns that match so perfectly align themselves on the couch, waiting for their fate, hoping, like orphans, that they will not be left behind. Too fade and worn to be sent to Goodwill, these pillows knew that moving was their only chance for survival. Somehow their ugliness matched the ugly waving pattern of the couch, and it was decided. The pillows will go. They will continue to be abused, sat upon, heated with the bottoms of overly-warmed laptops, eaten upon, spilled upon, left abandoned on the floor, kittified, attacked, and smashed into uncomfortably complex positions for better sleepability. These pillows would go, and they would be happy to.

3. First lines – write interesting first lines that can be turned into pieces later

  • “Playing Bingo is not for wussies,” Nehemiah croaked.
  • The jungle gym became an endless maze that Juniper lost herself within.
  • Fountains followed her throughout the flaming plaza.
  • Pigs fly; why don’t you?
  • Sleep drew down the shades of her eyelids, tucking her mind into darkness for the night.

No writing for this one…I went to bed.


Posted on July 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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