Writing Down The Boners!

In Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down The Bones:Freeing The Writer Within she points out human beings are the only species on Earth with this magical power, literacy, reading and writing. I read the book years ago and have since lost my copy. I mean to replace it one day, so I’ll do a bit a paraphrasing for this post. The one thing that stood out in the book to me, the thing I needed to read most was that it’s okay to write crap. Giving myself permission to write badly is the most valuable tool I ever put in my writing tool box.

Why? Writer’s block...You could be the most talented writer in the world, a true perfectionist at the craft of writing and if you are congratulations, I’m so happy for you. Writing is probably as easy for you as breathing. Not me though. As I mentioned in an earlier post I started out as a ‘edit as you go’ writer. I had to make the switch to a ‘write by the seat of my pants’ writer after reading that book.

I had these great ideas for stories and I would write anywhere for 2,000 to 10,000 words on a particular piece and I’d stop. Either I couldn’t get back into the flow of it or I had no idea how to move the story forward to get to the end. I wrote myself into a corner constantly or the story just got really boring. Cringe worthy material graced the pages and I couldn’t write another word. Before Writing Down The Bones I let myself be defeated by writer’s block. I considered writing a hobby and continued to pursue jobs that took me far away from the goal of writing for a living.

I needed to know how to finish the story. I was desperate to figure that out. Even when I copied another author’s style, storyline I still couldn’t make the magic happen for me. I discovered a formula to most of the books I read and while studying the craft of writing I picked up on a few things like plot, theme, setting, and story world. I stumbled onto Randy Ingermanson’s newsletter which spoke of this formula that I could see in other writers and still had yet to figure out for my work.

Unemployment found me attacking the craft of writing a story like a puzzle that needed figuring out. It could be put together if only I could find the key to the map of writing fiction. I turned to reading authors and genres I enjoyed and I tried to get my characters to do the same, finish telling the story.

Overall my biggest issue turned out to be writer’s block. When I read Writing Down The Bones it was like finding a key to my map with writing. That key was it is okay to write shit, crap, junk. Bad writing is allowed. That was the most freeing thing I could hear about writing. I immediately changed my goal. Instead of telling a great story and worrying that every detail was perfect, I wrote total and complete garbage. The only thing that mattered was I was writing, my new goal.

I’d finish the scene and get past it onto the next. Impossible unrealistic crap could and did happen to my characters. Scene changes that made no sense sprinkled their way across my words. A real world setting would switch to the future and take place on another planet in an entirely different universe. All of sudden in a modern urban tale there would be a 15th century warrior. Fairies and elves would run rampant or a minor character abruptly took center stage. I was writing. Something was happening on the page or nothing was happening on the page and that was okay. Nothing happening was the basis of one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. That show elevated the power of ‘nothing’ to a new level.

My grammar and punctuation were awful. There weren’t even darlings that needed killing. It was mundane dribble, but hey, I was writing and finishing stories. As I’ve said, I hate, loathe my first novel with a passion. I got that first novel length story under my belt about two months after I read that it was okay to write terrible stuff.

I was so proud of myself for finishing. Yeah, Woo Hoo! I proved to myself that I could group 75,000 words together to tell a story. I may hate the novel, but after it was done I managed to figure out my next biggest issue as a writer. I read and re-read every single word over and over again cringing the entire time. Often with lots of alcohol to help me get through it. It was painful to discover I had other issues now that I'd made writer's block my bitch. I was able to triage my weaknesses and learned what my strengths were as a writer. Being able to do that honestly and truly as a writer was humbling, yet very freeing.

Turns out that although I wrote for my enjoyment my target audience at that time was my biggest supporter of my writing, my aunt. She’s married to a minister and related to me through blood. This woman who I love and adore changed my diapers and has known me all my life. In the back of my head I was writing stories to please her. Turns out, my fantasies, the things I really enjoyed reading (and writing) were not for her eyes. I know where I intended my first novel to go. My aunt wanted to read it and I’d agreed to send it to her chapter by chapter as I wrote it. I so did not write the novel I meant to write. I only realized this hard truth as I finished writing my first novel.

I dropped my wonderful aunt as a beta reader. Considering she was the only beta reader I had at the time it was pretty easy to do. My next couple of beta readers were virtual female friends but eventually I landed on the right ones for me, dirty old men. At that point, I had a target audience that fit with the kind of writing I wanted to do and this little porn writer was born. So, I write down the boners, or orgasms, sometimes both, occasionally neither. I write until I finish the story and then the hard, difficult work starts. Rewrites and editing...


  1. Great. Now I will no longer think "Take it bird by bird, Julia." (via Ann Lamott). NOW, when I get writer's block I'll be thinking "Write down the boners." Oh, well. If it works, it works.