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Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft

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In this long-awaited sequel to her bestselling books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg, one of the most sought-after writing teachers of our time, takes us to the next step in the writing process. You’ve filled your notebooks, done your writing practice, discovered your original voice. Now what? How do you turn this raw material into finished stories, e In this long-awaited sequel to her bestselling books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg, one of the most sought-after writing teachers of our time, takes us to the next step in the writing process. You’ve filled your notebooks, done your writing practice, discovered your original voice. Now what? How do you turn this raw material into finished stories, essays, poems, novels, memoirs? Drawing on her own experience as a writer and a student of Zen, Natalie shows you how to create a field big enough to allow your “wild mind” to wander — and then gently direct its tremendous energy into whatever you want to write. Here, too, is invaluable advice on how to overcome writer’s block, how to deal with the fear of criticism and rejection, how to get the most from working with an editor, and how to learn from reading accomplished authors. With humor and compassion, Goldberg recounts her own mistakes on the way to publication — and how you can avoid the most common pitfalls of the beginning writer. Through it all there is a deep celebration of writing itself — not just as the means to an end, but as a path to living a deeper, more fully alive life.


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In this long-awaited sequel to her bestselling books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg, one of the most sought-after writing teachers of our time, takes us to the next step in the writing process. You’ve filled your notebooks, done your writing practice, discovered your original voice. Now what? How do you turn this raw material into finished stories, e In this long-awaited sequel to her bestselling books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg, one of the most sought-after writing teachers of our time, takes us to the next step in the writing process. You’ve filled your notebooks, done your writing practice, discovered your original voice. Now what? How do you turn this raw material into finished stories, essays, poems, novels, memoirs? Drawing on her own experience as a writer and a student of Zen, Natalie shows you how to create a field big enough to allow your “wild mind” to wander — and then gently direct its tremendous energy into whatever you want to write. Here, too, is invaluable advice on how to overcome writer’s block, how to deal with the fear of criticism and rejection, how to get the most from working with an editor, and how to learn from reading accomplished authors. With humor and compassion, Goldberg recounts her own mistakes on the way to publication — and how you can avoid the most common pitfalls of the beginning writer. Through it all there is a deep celebration of writing itself — not just as the means to an end, but as a path to living a deeper, more fully alive life.

30 review for Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jan Marquart

    Natalie Goldberg is most famous for her book Writing Down the Bones, and although I've read every one of her books and liked them, I love Thunder and Lightning the best. I'm not being critical of her. I have taken five of her workshops in Taos and know her personally. She is no-nonsense when it comes to writing. I like that about her. Just do it -- she says. But there is something about Thunder and Lightning that spoke to the writer in me more deeply than the other books. Most of her books have Natalie Goldberg is most famous for her book Writing Down the Bones, and although I've read every one of her books and liked them, I love Thunder and Lightning the best. I'm not being critical of her. I have taken five of her workshops in Taos and know her personally. She is no-nonsense when it comes to writing. I like that about her. Just do it -- she says. But there is something about Thunder and Lightning that spoke to the writer in me more deeply than the other books. Most of her books have her personal stories in them yet again, this book seemed different, raw, fresh, alive but I warn you, read it with trepidation; it will take you into your dark corners. If you write, or want to write, or think of writing -- buy it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    got to page 11 and my heart cried out for me to stop. I was not ready for the sense of despair Goldberg communicates in her introduction. Which is called 'Warning', so that was kinda apt. Not for me. got to page 11 and my heart cried out for me to stop. I was not ready for the sense of despair Goldberg communicates in her introduction. Which is called 'Warning', so that was kinda apt. Not for me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeana

    There are things I like about all of Natalie Goldberg's writing books. She really has a love of writing and that is infectious. However, every writer has a different method and different things that work for them. Her methods are not what work best for me. As I read, I could accept that she was describing her method and I was thinking how that wouldn't work in my situation. I particularly did not like that she said you shouldn't be thinking about the story you're writing unless you're sitting do There are things I like about all of Natalie Goldberg's writing books. She really has a love of writing and that is infectious. However, every writer has a different method and different things that work for them. Her methods are not what work best for me. As I read, I could accept that she was describing her method and I was thinking how that wouldn't work in my situation. I particularly did not like that she said you shouldn't be thinking about the story you're writing unless you're sitting down with pencil (or laptop) in hand. I've done most of my own plot mapping in my head while showering and driving and jogging. For a mom, like me, I have to use my valuable time driving carpool, etc., because so little of my time is spent sitting down with my pen in hand. That being said, this is still a worthwhile read and just confirmed how different writers are and what works for one does not work for all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Church

    I just love finding an author and devouring their mind. You read all their works—their poems, their juvenilia, their forgotten essays, letters, novels, and memoirs. You read biographies on them and listen to interviews of them. In doing so you don’t try to copy their style or become them, but a beautiful part of them is left with you forever like a close friend. You can never go back to the time before you first opened their books, and if they are strong writers you will be that much better off I just love finding an author and devouring their mind. You read all their works—their poems, their juvenilia, their forgotten essays, letters, novels, and memoirs. You read biographies on them and listen to interviews of them. In doing so you don’t try to copy their style or become them, but a beautiful part of them is left with you forever like a close friend. You can never go back to the time before you first opened their books, and if they are strong writers you will be that much better off for it. This is the endeavor I have undertaken with Natalie Goldberg. And it’s a strange choice for me if you consider some of my other all-time favorite authors. She’s nothing like them. Her prose is simple and colloquial, even discursive at times. It’s never difficult or erudite or filled to the outer margins with stream-of-consciousness poetry. It’s instructive, funny, and easy. Thunder and Lightning is the 6th book of hers I have read. I have at least 7 more to go, and I suspect by the time I get there she will have written more. And what a blessing that is. This specific book was an important book for me to read and has propelled me forward in the tasks I’m already engaged in. It’s reminded me of things I think daily, but forget that other people are thinking as well. Goldberg has the gift of inspiring and motivating. Her craft is teaching the craft. And it’s a class I want to be enrolled in forever. This book, written 16 years ago is just another semester under her tutelage. And having read her books diachronically, it gives me a chance to one day come back, when her cannon is sealed and read them in order with fresh eyes and a new heart.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Thunder and Lightning didn't effortlessly send my wild mind flying like Writing Down the Bones did, but it wasn't just a piece of fluff, either. Far from it. It's still Goldberg, writing in that clear and poignant way that she has, sharing herself and what she's learned about writing. The best books about writing inspire rather than dictate. Goldberg inspires. Thunder and Lightning didn't effortlessly send my wild mind flying like Writing Down the Bones did, but it wasn't just a piece of fluff, either. Far from it. It's still Goldberg, writing in that clear and poignant way that she has, sharing herself and what she's learned about writing. The best books about writing inspire rather than dictate. Goldberg inspires.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    A book about actually turning writing into works of literature. Particularly novels. Very personal accounts. More or less useful depending on how close your writing style comes to hers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barb Nelson

    I’m not a professional writer, I’ve never been paid for writing. But I do write, often. I rarely go more than a few days without writing something— a review here on GR, a blog post, an email to a friend. So I occasionally pick up a writing book, for ideas, inspiration, or just to see how someone else does it. As an example of that— how someone else does it— Thunder and Lightning is terrific. Unsurprisingly, Goldberg is a great writer. There are bits of memoir, bits of writing instruction, bits o I’m not a professional writer, I’ve never been paid for writing. But I do write, often. I rarely go more than a few days without writing something— a review here on GR, a blog post, an email to a friend. So I occasionally pick up a writing book, for ideas, inspiration, or just to see how someone else does it. As an example of that— how someone else does it— Thunder and Lightning is terrific. Unsurprisingly, Goldberg is a great writer. There are bits of memoir, bits of writing instruction, bits of Buddhist practice, all told in a clear, compassionate voice. Her methods are inspiring to me as an example of another writer at work, but they would not work for me without major modifications- and that is perhaps the book’s weakest point, her assumption that her writing methods are the best and even only way to work. But for my purpose, it delivered exactly what I wanted, an impetus to think about what I’m doing. Good book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alina Stepan

    This book has a particular story for me. Back in 2014, after a week spent in Paris with work, I had another week with my partner there. Dragging my heavy 2-weeks suitcase down the long metro corridors, from Gentilly to Cluny La Sorbonne, I was longing to finally meet my loved one for a romantic - of course, what else? - week in the City of Lights. Thunder and Lightning, all right :) In front of Fontaine Saint Michel, here he is, dragging his suitcase and holding two books under his left arm. ‘I f This book has a particular story for me. Back in 2014, after a week spent in Paris with work, I had another week with my partner there. Dragging my heavy 2-weeks suitcase down the long metro corridors, from Gentilly to Cluny La Sorbonne, I was longing to finally meet my loved one for a romantic - of course, what else? - week in the City of Lights. Thunder and Lightning, all right :) In front of Fontaine Saint Michel, here he is, dragging his suitcase and holding two books under his left arm. ‘I found these’, he said, clumsily handing me the books. One of them was Nathalie Goldberg’s book. With hundreds of books on my shelves, it was only now, 6 years later, that I have read it and loved it. It stroke many chords, intellectual and emotional, physical and ethereal. Practice. Love. Visualise. Work hard. Write.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sparkie Allison

    I am a fan of Natalie Goldberg since Writing Down the Bones and then Wild Mind. Thunder and Lightning was on my shelf but other books and work diverted my attention. I am glad that I finally got the opportunity to indulge in this book. Goldberg references Zen practices and humor, both of which resonate with me. It has been a while since I had read a book that spoke to me in so many ways. She advises us to write what disturbs us, what we have not been willing to deal with. That pushes me to move I am a fan of Natalie Goldberg since Writing Down the Bones and then Wild Mind. Thunder and Lightning was on my shelf but other books and work diverted my attention. I am glad that I finally got the opportunity to indulge in this book. Goldberg references Zen practices and humor, both of which resonate with me. It has been a while since I had read a book that spoke to me in so many ways. She advises us to write what disturbs us, what we have not been willing to deal with. That pushes me to move beyond the comfort zone to explore what other themes emerge and embrace the real self that I keep safely from the world. It is really empowering. If you love to write poetry, novels or songwriting, this is another tool to job your senses and expand your use of words and imagery.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jsarno49

    Since I'm taking a virtual class with Natalie Goldberg, I especially appreciated this book which provides context and insights into her philosophy of the teaching of writing. Goldberg believes that the only way to become a writer is to write spontaneously, daily, and fast. She advocates writing 10 - 15 minutes a day in order to discover your mind. The book is organized into 3 sections: structure, reading (yes, she also advocates reading good writing and writers), and reining in your wild horses. Since I'm taking a virtual class with Natalie Goldberg, I especially appreciated this book which provides context and insights into her philosophy of the teaching of writing. Goldberg believes that the only way to become a writer is to write spontaneously, daily, and fast. She advocates writing 10 - 15 minutes a day in order to discover your mind. The book is organized into 3 sections: structure, reading (yes, she also advocates reading good writing and writers), and reining in your wild horses. It's in this last part that she discusses ways to hone your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because Goldberg's voice is strong, and she makes it feel as though she is speaking directly to you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I don't normally read nonfiction, something this author predicts, and for the reason she suspects. The nonfiction books I read in school were bland, spitting out facts without a human connection. Thunder & Lightening is all human connection. It's intimate. I liked it. That said, the entire structure section seemed focused on writing memoir, and I agree with the author's students that free-writing for two years, as practice, isn't practical. Also, the text meanders, glancing on personal stories w I don't normally read nonfiction, something this author predicts, and for the reason she suspects. The nonfiction books I read in school were bland, spitting out facts without a human connection. Thunder & Lightening is all human connection. It's intimate. I liked it. That said, the entire structure section seemed focused on writing memoir, and I agree with the author's students that free-writing for two years, as practice, isn't practical. Also, the text meanders, glancing on personal stories worth digging into before catching up with the point of each chapter, and leaving most tales behind, unfinished. This isn't a complaint so much as a consistent observation, though I can see how this would annoy some readers.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Ever since I read Natalie's "Writing Down the Bones" last fall, I have been writing steadily, almost daily. Her approach of "writing practice" has given me back my writing---I can finally silence the internal Editor and let myself write freely, penning those "first thoughts" that often turn out much better than overworked, carefully manicured prose. This book was a nice follow-up to "Bones," if just to keep the conversation going and hear Natalie pronounce "memoir" as "mem-wah" in her terrific N Ever since I read Natalie's "Writing Down the Bones" last fall, I have been writing steadily, almost daily. Her approach of "writing practice" has given me back my writing---I can finally silence the internal Editor and let myself write freely, penning those "first thoughts" that often turn out much better than overworked, carefully manicured prose. This book was a nice follow-up to "Bones," if just to keep the conversation going and hear Natalie pronounce "memoir" as "mem-wah" in her terrific New York accent (I listened to the audio book). I don't share her Buddhist views and could do with a little less Zen in the book, but I certainly appreciate her insights into the writing life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Whitehead

    I didn’t like this one anywhere near as much as I liked Natalie Goldberg’s first two books on writing. Most of the entries are longer than in her previous works, and the extra length seems to do little beyond give her unwelcome room to wander off topic. Further, the book is short on practical advice. In its place we get tales from Goldberg’s personal experiences. While these are no doubt priceless to her, they’re often hard to relate to (especially the one at the end, which sounds more like a ne I didn’t like this one anywhere near as much as I liked Natalie Goldberg’s first two books on writing. Most of the entries are longer than in her previous works, and the extra length seems to do little beyond give her unwelcome room to wander off topic. Further, the book is short on practical advice. In its place we get tales from Goldberg’s personal experiences. While these are no doubt priceless to her, they’re often hard to relate to (especially the one at the end, which sounds more like a nervous breakdown than a writing breakthrough). I don’t regret reading this, but I’m glad I started with some of the author’s other books first.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian Cuban

    I listened to this book because I enjoyed Writing down the bones. I found much of this one redundant to that book. One big warning here-if you are not into “Zen” you may find her repetitive mentions distracting. That part is really a continuation of Writing Down The Bones. If you embrace a Zen philosophy of writing and want to learn how it influenced Natalie’s writing, you will probably be more engaged with the book than I was. The quality of this audio book is a giant leap over Writing Down The I listened to this book because I enjoyed Writing down the bones. I found much of this one redundant to that book. One big warning here-if you are not into “Zen” you may find her repetitive mentions distracting. That part is really a continuation of Writing Down The Bones. If you embrace a Zen philosophy of writing and want to learn how it influenced Natalie’s writing, you will probably be more engaged with the book than I was. The quality of this audio book is a giant leap over Writing Down The Bones

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Brill

    Natalie Goldberg makes me want to write. Write well, write better. Sharper, more detail, closer, more intimate. Write when you feel like it and when you don’t. Make a commitment to it. And read. And walk. Highly recommend this as a tool and a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to become a better writer. She intersperses practical advice with snippets of teaching and literature, anecdotes about people she’s know and adventures she’s taken. Complete with a list of her favorite books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I loved this book..but then I love Natalie Goldberg. She is a writers writer. She tells you to just write and feel free to write the worst junk in the world. And she shares that it’s not easy even for a prolific writer like herself. Just because I finished this book does not mean it is done. It’s one of those books I will keep with me and when I get stuck in my writing I will pick it up, read some , get inspired and go back to writing. A book I can go back to and read over and over is a treasure I loved this book..but then I love Natalie Goldberg. She is a writers writer. She tells you to just write and feel free to write the worst junk in the world. And she shares that it’s not easy even for a prolific writer like herself. Just because I finished this book does not mean it is done. It’s one of those books I will keep with me and when I get stuck in my writing I will pick it up, read some , get inspired and go back to writing. A book I can go back to and read over and over is a treasure.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rowe

    This book gives me anxiety; I'm over writing instruction. This books seems more prescriptive than Writing Down The Bones. She says that one should do writing practice for 2 years. I read it as "no more than 2 years," I believe she means, "At least 2 years." I don't think you want to get caught up forever freewriting and doing morning pages because at some point you need to write your book. Goldberg includes a reading list in the back of this book. This book gives me anxiety; I'm over writing instruction. This books seems more prescriptive than Writing Down The Bones. She says that one should do writing practice for 2 years. I read it as "no more than 2 years," I believe she means, "At least 2 years." I don't think you want to get caught up forever freewriting and doing morning pages because at some point you need to write your book. Goldberg includes a reading list in the back of this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sjervey

    Superb look at the craft of writing and vignettes in the lives of many writers, with wonderful candor about her own life as a writer and lecturer. Rich in insights into the challenges of keeping the word vibrant, it also recognizes that one size can never fit all. I strongly recommend this lively guide to anyone who wants to write or even just read better.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathy D

    Writing Down the Bones will always be first in my heart; but this book shows Natalie as a vulnerable, relatable human who also is a world class writer. We all have struggles with our lives. It’s solace to know we aren’t the only ones.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    I think this book didn't provide as much content around structure as Natalie suggests but it is a good read nonetheless. Definitely listen to the audiobook with Natalie narrating it, like a long deep chat with a beloved friend. I think this book didn't provide as much content around structure as Natalie suggests but it is a good read nonetheless. Definitely listen to the audiobook with Natalie narrating it, like a long deep chat with a beloved friend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Larada Horner-Miller

    Just what I needed! As I finished this, so many questions were answered for me on how to take Writing Practice to a different level. Natalie has been and still is my my writing hero, mentor and guru!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily Allen

    I especially appreciated the second half of this book, with wonderful insights into writing practice and process. The first half was less interesting to me, but ultimately, worth it for the second half!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I loved this book and found it incredibly helpful for my writing in both practical and inspiring ways.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly D.

    Love her writing advice. Hope to read some of her work soon. Can't wait to dig into the reading list of books she loves. Love her writing advice. Hope to read some of her work soon. Can't wait to dig into the reading list of books she loves.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Allison

    Amazing as always. Natalie starts with a very true warning but ends with the inspiration you need to get writing. Especially memoir.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barb Royal

    From a novice writer's perspective - absolutely fabulous, riveting. From a novice writer's perspective - absolutely fabulous, riveting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    One

    I love Natalie Goldberg and have read most of her books. This one is not my favorite, but it's still good and worth reading. I love Natalie Goldberg and have read most of her books. This one is not my favorite, but it's still good and worth reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    MountainShelby

    One of our greatest writing teachers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tina Konstant

    This book swings between meditative and mind blowing. I've had it on my shelf for years. Never felt like the right time to read it. Then suddenly it was. If you're a writer on a journey, then hitch a ride with "Thunder and Lightening" for a while. I've read more than my share of books on writing and none have come close to this. It at once feeds your writer's mind and your wishing, dreaming writer's soul. So get yourself a brew, put your feet up and enjoy. If you're ready. If not, wait. No harm This book swings between meditative and mind blowing. I've had it on my shelf for years. Never felt like the right time to read it. Then suddenly it was. If you're a writer on a journey, then hitch a ride with "Thunder and Lightening" for a while. I've read more than my share of books on writing and none have come close to this. It at once feeds your writer's mind and your wishing, dreaming writer's soul. So get yourself a brew, put your feet up and enjoy. If you're ready. If not, wait. No harm in waiting...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    This is the “sequel” to Natalie Goldberg’s famous Writing Down the Bones, and though there was a fifteen-year gap between the publication of the two, I read them almost back to back, and this one definitely picked up where its predecessor left off. It tells you how to turn writing practice entries into a book. “Ah! Just what I needed!” I thought. The middle section is about reading to learn craft. Now, all writers start off as readers, so while this section mentions some interesting books I may c This is the “sequel” to Natalie Goldberg’s famous Writing Down the Bones, and though there was a fifteen-year gap between the publication of the two, I read them almost back to back, and this one definitely picked up where its predecessor left off. It tells you how to turn writing practice entries into a book. “Ah! Just what I needed!” I thought. The middle section is about reading to learn craft. Now, all writers start off as readers, so while this section mentions some interesting books I may check out, I didn’t feel the advice was all that necessary, nor do I believe it would be for any regular user of Goodreads. So at that point, my enthusiasm began to dampen. The final section was about writing practice again, and Natalie advised two years of it before embarking on a book. Two years! Sorry, but not for me. I’ve been a regular journal-keeper in my life, and I’m an intermittent journal-keeper now. Perhaps I should increase my output, but what I really want to do is finish the memoir I’ve started. I can’t delay it with nothing but writing practice. So whereas Writing Down the Bones got me writing again, this section has given me guilt, which is a precursor to writer’s block. Definitely not what I needed. Luckily, I can always go back to Writing Down the Bones for the solution. My favorite lesson was that if a tackling a certain topic intimidates you, sneak up on it from the side. If you write enough, you’ll have a breakthrough that will lead you to release, joy, and a sense of accomplishment. Unlike Writing Down the Bones, this book was about writing and publishing. It’s a topic all aspiring writers think about, and Natalie Goldberg certainly has the expertise to address it. As she points out, with publishing, the stakes get higher, so the writing process can become more daunting. So at the core, her lesson always goes back to writing practice. This was a good book, but Writing Down the Bones remains the foundation.

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