Hello, I am Elena and I am a compulsive reader of self help books for writers.

Last weekend at a writers’ workshop I saw Natalie Goldberg’s WRITING DOWN THE BONES in the stack brought by the co-leader of the workshop. I couldn’t resist borrowing it and diving in. (In my defense, I have rewritten a chapter and a half while reading it so I am not completely dysfunctional.)

I found it interesting and unsettling. While I loved Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, Natalie Goldberg’s style and suggestions go further, making the control freak in me very uncomfortable. I also get the feeling that some of her ideas lend themselves more readily toward the writing of poetry and short stories than to novels. Still, I think there are things there worth trying.

A major theme is “writing practice”, doing free writing in notebooks (with goofy pictures on them to keep one from feeling pressured to create masterpieces in them). My reaction to this idea was something like, “And how is this going to help me complete a manuscript to send to my agent in mid-April per plan?” But I’m trying it, just 10 minutes here and there, as a warm-up. I also think it might help keep me from getting rusty during the months when I’m doing early drafts, when I concentrate on story rather than writing. Anyway, it’s been fun. I even wrote a poem, only the second I’ve written since school. No, I promise I won’t inflict it on you! 🙂

Another of Goldberg’s suggestions is to write in different places, outdoors, in restaurants or cafés. There are lots of examples of writers penning bestselling novels that way (J.K. Rowling for one). Some writers need to get away from household cares, or they like stimulation, or they feel trapped behind a desk. And it sounds so very chic and sophisticated to write in a café.

But it doesn’t usually work for me. When I started writing my first novel I tried out different locations: libraries, cafés, parks, and found that I was always too anxious to get much done. I’m better off hiding in my “writing cave” (albeit a well decorated and comfy one) where no one can look over my shoulder or interrupt me and I can forget there’s an outside world that might not love my characters as much as I do.

When you read a book, do you ever think about whether the author wrote it sitting in some chic café (like this one in Paris) or at home in her jammies? For the writers amongst you, have any of you read Goldberg? What do you think? Do any of you do practice writing or keep journals? Do you write in the same place every time or do you like to change the territory now and then?