My rating: 4 of 5 stars
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
This is very much a book that is difficult to rate for me. At times I was annoyed with Natalie (affectionately called Nat in the piece), and at other times I completely sympathized with her. She is both the wise sage seeming to know more about the art of writing than you ever guessed, and at other times she seems very distant and naive.
At one point she talks about how she had a job that required her to go in once a week, and found that this was too much for her to handle and got in the way of her writing. So she quit the job and spent the rest of her time focusing on her piece. Not many people I believe are able to make such a choice so casually, and I would wager that most writers have people in their lives that rely on their day job paycheck. It’s naive to think that everybody could do this on a whim, but at the same time I have to admire Natalie for not beating around the bush here. She comes right out and tells you this even though it might come across negative to the readers. That’s fine bravery there.
Although I don’t always agree with Natalie, I found her book be quite inspiring. She gets you to think about writing in new ways, and she gets you to feel more comfortable writing. At one point she says that writing is just like mastering any other skill such as running. You get better at it with practice, and as they always say with experts, the better you get the more difficult it becomes to instruct beginners. You’re with Natalie through her ups and downs, though her questioning search for identity, and her beautiful mix of zen and writing. I would certainly be interested in reading her other novel, Writing Down the Bones, since it’s typically seen as a better guide for writers than this book. However I highly recommend reading this. Her prose is calm and smooth, and you feel like she’s chatting to you across a cafe table sipping some herbal tea.
Just be prepared to accept Natalie as who she is and keep an open mind. You’ll be greatly rewarded if you do.