Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir” as Want to Read:
Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,459 ratings  ·  148 reviews
“Memoir writers, buy this book, put it on your personal altar, or carry it with you as you traverse the deep ruts of your old road.” —Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

Old Friend from Far Away teaches writers how to tap into their unique memories to tell their story.

Twenty years ago Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones, broke new groun/>Old
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 10th 2009 by Atria Books (first published 2002)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Old Friend from Far Away, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Old Friend from Far Away

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,459 ratings  ·  148 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
Emma Sea
Feb 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I’ve been doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages since November last year. The idea is that you freewrite three pages: anything - everything - that comes to mind. In February I felt I was ready to move on to some morning writing that was a bit more structured, and use some prompts.

I love Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, and Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life have been important books for me. So I ordered Old Frien
Joel Friedlander
It took me 6 months to "read" this book. How come? Almost every page is an exercise in reconstructing your own memories of your life and the people you've met along the way.

I decided to work through all the exercises and it turned into a truly transformative experience. I think if you're interested in memoir, in telling your own story but you need help getting started, or if your writing seems to "lack juice" this book is for you.

Through writing exercises and memory-enhan
Natalie Goldberg saved my writing life. Stuck in the depths of writing block despair - the longest and bleakest I had ever experienced - I grabbed this off the shelf at my local bookstore. Two pages in, I felt a ray of light break through the thunderhead surrounding me. I ran out and bought a new notebook. I sat down and wrote five pages without stopping.

Writer's block DEMOLISHED.

Been writing well and without blockages ever since.

I love Natalie method of "zen writing". I
Saundra Goldman
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, memoir
I have finished the exercises for the first two sections of Old Friend, which I'm using as a text in my class, Writing Practice, Memory, and Memoir. I'm keeping a separate notebook for this work, although most of the topics have lead me back to the book I'm writing--but with angles and insights I wouldn't have otherwise reached. I actually conceived this class so I'd do the exercises in Old Friend, because I didn't have the discipline to do them on my own. Nothing like accountability to get you ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, read-2008, writing
I just finished reading this book this morning. Now that I've read it, I need to work through it. Which I am very much looking forward to, because, oh, what a lovely little guide! Some of the best writing I encounter is actually writing about writing. Which makes sense if you think about it - why would you follow advice from a badly written book about writing?

Natalie Goldberg does not disappoint - she is as funny, down to earth, succinct, and harsh, as ever. This book is inspiring in the best
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The same, old, stuff from Natalie Goldberg. Wordy personal narrative disguised as less than inspiring ten-minute writing exercises. I think of something Amy Hempel said in Paris Review a few years ago - that being "writerly" can overshadow what you are trying to say. "Sometimes, the door is just "open", she said.

"Write everything you can think of about the Fourth of July" just doesn't excite me. I'm passing this on.
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Great book. I'm going to buy it. I never buy books. It's out in paperback 3/10/09. I can wait.
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
I liked this book, but as I was reading it through, it was not easy to handle. The reason is that this is a book meant to be read, and for people to do the writing exercises. I constantly wanted to stop and do some writing, but since I was borrowing the book (from my library), I could not stop. I would definitely buy a copy of this book for myself at some point. I remarked in one of the updates that I still liked Writing Down the Bones better, and I can say that statement is still accurate. That othe ...more
Taylor Church
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love this author, so I'm going through her bibliography book by book. Each one talks about writing, creativity, and life. But they don't seem redundant to me. Her voice is so real and humorous that I would read anything she writes.

This book does however focus on writing about your own life in the form of memoir. Being a memoirist myself I find her words inspirational and helpful. She lives and dies by her "writing practice" which I'm finally (4 books later) starting to implement into my
May 26, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"This revolution in personal narrative that has unrolled across the American landscape in the last two and a half decades is the expression of a uniquely American energy: a desire to understand in the heat of living, while life is fresh . . ."

au contraire --- it is because we are a country of self-absorbed, egotistical narcissists.

Ms. Goldberg has not only jumped on the bandwagon, she's now driving it.
Emily Crow
I like Goldberg's friendly and inviting approach to writing, but I already have Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, and this book contains mostly the same advice. Worth a read but glad I got it from the library. If it's your first book by Goldberg, though, you'd probably get a lot more out of it.
Laura C. Robb
A lot of writing prompts and good tips for memoir writers.
Michelle Monet
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Natalie Goldberg! I have read her other books 'Wild Mind' and 'Writing down the bones'. I'd say this one was similar but not as resonate as the other two. Still, I always get the jolt of inspiration and creative zest after reading all of her books! I especially love her thoughts on rule breaking. Writers must do this! Thanks Natalie for the shot in the arm today as I write my memoir.
Kimberly Patton
I hated her writing style. The only thing good about this random and weird book, was the writing prompts.
Brent M.  Jones
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Natalie Goldberg said of her book “Old Friend From Far Away”: “The experience I’ve had with writing this book has deepened over the months. Continually accessing my own storehouse of memories, I’ve found that the things usually lost in the busyness of day to day life have instead become part of my life now, enriching me tremendously. The practice itself has become the end, the reason for doing it.”

The book offers new perspective on memoir suggesting that it doesn’t have to be confine
May 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book previously and my opinion hasn't changed any at all, why would I have thought it would. I saw a class was offering online and since I can't make that commitment just now, and my library doesn't have Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within , and why not? I settled for this instead. I wish I could compare the content between the two title. This one feels like she threw together a lot of journal prompts without all that much content between them, as if she was rushing to meet ...more
Meredith Allard
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality, writing
I've made no secret of the fact that I love Natalie Goldberg and her books. I even started sitting zazen after reading her memoir about her zen teacher. I'm starting my own journey into memoir writing, so of course one of the first people I turned to was Goldberg to see what she had to say about it. There are many great exercises here to get your brain going, thinking about what you remember and what you might like to include in telling your life story. Some aspects of this book felt familiar to ...more
Kressel Housman
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, unfinished
I'm not going to finish this book, but it was great for me. Like all of Natalie Goldberg's books, it is full of writing prompts, but for the first time, I committed to doing every single exercise as I went through it. I actually got through Sections I and II, but now I've got to stop. I'm taking a writing class, and there's no way that I can keep up with the class, my 2018 reading goal, and Natalie's book all at the same time. But I'll get back to this in the future. It opened me up, and I'm gra ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though I'm past the point of really needing Goldberg's advice, I find her voice soothing and encouraging. I find myself listening to her audiobooks before sitting myself down to write--there's just something meditative about it, as if you are sitting down to chat with a fellow writer.
Lucille Zimmerman
This may be one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.. I’m not even interested in writing a memoir, but the exercises that help you tap into memories and sensation are helpful for all types of writing.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the third book by Natalie Goldberg I read. A lot of the messages and themes were similar to her other work, so that’s why I’m giving this four stars. The book serves as a great reminder of some of the other works she has created.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an absolute delight! Rich in content and humor, and filled with writing prompts and useful reading recommemdations. A must-read for any aspiring memoir writer; fiction writers and poets may benefit from it too.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: katrina, memoir
I did not finish this book; maybe I will somtime.
I don't really agree with some of the author's suggestions and ideas. She has a lot of 10 minute exercises which to me are cumbersome. Maybe it is to get one in the flow of seeing and telling more than just a glimpse of something.
Lisa Williams
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Challenge anyone who wants to write to read this and not be scribbling away by the end of it.
Laura Luzzi
A good book to have nearby to keep you writing. Good exercises to get your brain moving.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspirational as always
Kelly Danahy
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Natalie Goldberg's writing has saved me in a lot of ways. I'm so thankful for finding her books, all starting with "Wild Minds".
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One to linger over and return to time and again.
Sunny Cooper
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend this for any author in pursuits of memoir.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, to-own
I've renewed this book from the library twice already, which means that I need to own a copy of this book. I just finished reading the book today and I did a couple of the writing exercises already. They've been extremely gratifying. I love how Natalie Goldberg can pull out inspiration by providing it--the writing here is poetic and moving. Gets your creative writing juices flowing. I've marked the exercises (over a dozen) that I want to do while I have the book in my possession from the library ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life
  • The Art of Memoir
  • Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)
  • Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
  • Writing the Memoir
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation Into the Writing Life
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart
  • Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits
  • 新参者 [Shinzanmono] (加賀恭一郎, #8)
  • The Power Of Focus
  • The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life
  • Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
  • Confessions of an Organized Homemaker: The Secrets of Uncluttering Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life
  • Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule--and Your Life
  • Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life
  • One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good
See similar books…
Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe , which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twe ...more
“The things that make you a functional citizen in society - manners, discretion, cordiality - don't necessarily make you a good writer. Writing needs raw truth, wants your suffering and darkness on the table, revels in a cutting mind that takes no prisoners...” 23 likes
“Too often we take notes on writing, we think about writing but never do it. I want you to walk into the heart of the storm, written words dripping off hair, eyelids, hanging from hands.” 14 likes
More quotes…