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Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

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"Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." From the best-selling author of Devotion and Slow Motion comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate and eloquent comp "Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." From the best-selling author of Devotion and Slow Motion comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate and eloquent companion to living a creative life. Through a blend of deeply personal stories about what formed her as a writer, tales from other authors, and a searching look at her own creative process, Shapiro offers her gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and advice for staying the course. "The writer's life requires courage, patience, empathy, openness. It requires the ability to be alone with oneself. Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks." Writers--and anyone with an artistic temperament--will find inspiration and comfort in these pages. Offering lessons learned over twenty years of teaching and writing, Shapiro brings her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers. Like Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary, and Stephen King's On Writing, Dani Shapiro's Still Writing is a lodestar for aspiring scribes and an eloquent memoir of the writing life.


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"Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." From the best-selling author of Devotion and Slow Motion comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate and eloquent comp "Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." From the best-selling author of Devotion and Slow Motion comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate and eloquent companion to living a creative life. Through a blend of deeply personal stories about what formed her as a writer, tales from other authors, and a searching look at her own creative process, Shapiro offers her gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and advice for staying the course. "The writer's life requires courage, patience, empathy, openness. It requires the ability to be alone with oneself. Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks." Writers--and anyone with an artistic temperament--will find inspiration and comfort in these pages. Offering lessons learned over twenty years of teaching and writing, Shapiro brings her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers. Like Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary, and Stephen King's On Writing, Dani Shapiro's Still Writing is a lodestar for aspiring scribes and an eloquent memoir of the writing life.

30 review for Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    A few weeks ago someone dear to me asked, “Are you still writing? I wondered if you’d decided to get a part-time job.” I’ll admit right now, right here, this crushed me. My first novel is still months away from launch and my second novel is out on submission. I recently finished the first draft of a third and I’ve just returned from a life-altering residency and poetry workshop. Yet in the space of fourteen small words, I felt my entire raison d’etre smashed to smithereens. This didn’t come from A few weeks ago someone dear to me asked, “Are you still writing? I wondered if you’d decided to get a part-time job.” I’ll admit right now, right here, this crushed me. My first novel is still months away from launch and my second novel is out on submission. I recently finished the first draft of a third and I’ve just returned from a life-altering residency and poetry workshop. Yet in the space of fourteen small words, I felt my entire raison d’etre smashed to smithereens. This didn’t come from an acquaintance or a well-meaning but clueless friend, this came from someone I hope would be a champion for my work. My job. Which is writing. It wasn’t until I read the final pages of Dani Shapiro’s sublime meditation on the writing life that I realized the universality of my hurt and exasperation. I had to laugh. I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for two months and the title only just dawned on me as I closed the back cover. Still Writing. Jesus. Still Writing is part memoir, part collection of meditations on what it means to be a writer. I think we gravitate to these books on process and creative endeavor in hopes of finding a few answers, and perhaps a mentor. I found both. Each entry found me nodding in breathless agreement, exclaiming, “Yes!” I reread passages, underlining sentences and paragraphs, dog-earing the pages to remember later until I realized that I would be marring every page with pen or corner fold, and that it would be possible to come back, open any page and find comfort within. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I need permission to accept I’ve chosen a life inherently insecure and dependent upon the moods, whims, and tastes of others. There is the romantic notion of the artist scribbling away in blissful solitude in her light-filled atelier or in the warm bustle of a café, pouring her soul onto the page, but in reality, if one hopes to make a living writing, the risk and vulnerability are breathtaking and sometimes stupefying. You are dependent upon forces beyond your control: the gatekeepers of the publishing world. All you can do is refine and hone your craft in the small and lonely hours, hoping each day of writing will make you that nebulous and doubtful better writer. It is so refreshing, therefore, to read someone who has found success (i.e. readers), call it like it is: When writers who are just starting out ask me when it gets easier, my answer is never. It never gets easier. I don’t want to scare them, so I rarely say more than that, but the truth is that, if anything, it gets harder. The writing life isn’t just filled with predictable uncertainties but with the awareness that we are always starting over again. That everything we ever write will be flawed. We may have written one book, or many, but all we know — if we know anything at all — is how to write the book we’re writing. All novels are failures. Perfection itself would be a failure. All we can hope is that we will fail better. That we won’t succumb to fear of the unknown. That we will not fall prey to the easy enchantments of repeating what may have worked in the past. I try to remember that the job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it. To be birthed by it. Each time we come to the end of a piece of work, we have failed as we have leapt—spectacularly, brazenly — into the unknown. And yet those lonely hours in that atelier (or, more accurately, in the dining room, on the living room sofa, tucked in a messy corner of a shared home office, and yes, writing in that bustling café) pulse and burst with all the lives that have written before us, the books we have read, authors we have studied, mentors who guide us, the few encouraging comments we cling to like life rafts to avoid the whirlpool of rejection and doubt. Though we are alone in our rooms, alone with our demons, our inner censors, our teachers remind us that we're not alone in the endeavor. We are part of a great tapestry of those who have preceded us. And so we must ask ourselves: Are we feeling with our minds? Thinking with our hearts? Making every empathic leap we can? Are we witnesses to the world around us? For we have the calling, the responsibility even, to push past the doubt and keep writing. I struggle with this every.single.day. Ironically, the only thing that quiets the demons of doubt is the work. Donald Hall writes, 'If work is no antidote to death, not a denial of it, death is a powerful stimulus to work. Get done what you can." There is this—only this. It would be good keep these words in mind when we wake up each morning. Get done what you can. And then, the rest is gravy. At this stage of being in my mid-late forties and only just getting started as a writer, it's hard to see the gravy from the smorgasbord crowding my plate. I don’t have the luxury and seeming-invincibility of youth to build a career. I write with a sense of urgency. It took me until the age of forty-one to find my voice and five years later those pent-up words continue to pour out, but I’m still this raw and unformed writer who has years of fundamental learning ahead of her. Who knows that fiction writing alone will not sustain her financially. Yet the world of freelance writing, of speaking engagements, of being asked is a foreign land to which I haven’t yet been approved for residency. But I’ve been granted a visitor's visa and hopefully, I’ll be able to stay. II taught my first writing workshop this weekend and there are more to come in the fall. I started class by reading from Still Writing, specifically the lovely section entitled Shimmer. Here’s part of it: That knowledge, that ping, that hair on our arms standing up, that sudden, electric sense of knowing. We must learn to watch for these moments. To not discount them. To take note. I'll have to write about this. It happens when our histories collide with the present. It comes with the certainty of its own rightness. I've returned toShimmer several times since my initial reading, knowing this is, in part, why I write. It is the inevitability of the calling. The endorphin rush of the words, a craving of the soul that must be redeemed on the page. These moments of shimmer that, when I recognize and respond to them, reward me with a sense of wellbeing. Not money, recognition, external approval, guidance or proof of my skill. But a simple, complete peace of heart and mind. It is a privilege to feel this way and I recognize what a privilege it is to call myself a writer. Unlike other artists—dancers, sculptors, or cellists, say—as long as we hold onto our faculties, writers can continue to grow creatively until we die. The middle of a writing life is much like being in the midst of a book itself. Here we often discover our weaknesses and strengths. Dani Shapiro, in this compact, eloquent, lovely book touches every aspect of a writer’s life: the distractions, the blocks, the longings, envies, vulnerabilities, processes and rhythms, cold realities, and the sustaining joys. It is less advice and prescription than empathy born of experience, a sincere hug but then a leaning back with hands clasped on your shoulders, turning you around and pushing you out the door. “Courage,” she writes, “is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway." Yes. Yes. I am Still Writing. In hope. In terror. Sometimes with one eye on that dwindling savings account. Because I can read Rilke’s question: “Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest places of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would have to die if writing were denied you. This before all ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write?" and respond: Yes. Yes, I must.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Iris P

    Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life A couple of months ago, when I read Goodread's author Julie Christine Johnson wonderful and inspiring review on this book, I had never heard of author Dani Shapiro before. (You can read Julie's review here.) After reading it, I asked Julie a couple of questions, the first one was: Do you think this memoir can be enjoyed by someone like me, a person who loves literature but isn’t a writer? The second question was, do you consider writing mor Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life A couple of months ago, when I read Goodread's author Julie Christine Johnson wonderful and inspiring review on this book, I had never heard of author Dani Shapiro before. (You can read Julie's review here.) After reading it, I asked Julie a couple of questions, the first one was: Do you think this memoir can be enjoyed by someone like me, a person who loves literature but isn’t a writer? The second question was, do you consider writing more an art of a craft? Julie very wisely assured me that yes, indeed she thought I would definitely appreciate Shapiro's memoir. It took me a while to finish it, but reading Shapiro's elegant and eloquent memoir provided a fascinating glimpse into the mind and creative process of a writer. Whether is fiction or non-fiction, reading is to me (among many other things) about our continuous search for intimacy and connection with others. Many of us tend to think of writers as people that somehow manage to be above the fray, individuals that by virtue of having found such a profound life calling, enjoy privilege existences, far away from the pettiness and ordinariness of day to day life. The wonderful thing about reading memoirs is that they allow us to connect with authors on a very intimate level. Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life is one of those rare books that manages to be both profound and practical. It's at once an ode to the beauty of writing, and a warning to the potential pitfalls and perils that lay ahead for those that decide to pursue the craft. Divided into three parts: "Beginnings," "Middles" and "Ends", this memoir engages the reader with its short chapters and its surprisingly simple and accessible language. Shapiro strives to explain what happens from the moment a writer decides to write to the moment when actual words are put down on a piece of paper/document. The author shares what appears to be a lifetime collection of practical advice, suggestions and guidance. These seem to be particularly valuable for aspiring writers. "Ultimately a writer is someone that writes, Shapiro points out, it might sound deceitfully simple but somehow within the context of this memoir it makes total sense. I love the fact that Shapiro calls for writers to not only write but to be avid readers as well. Here's an except from the chapter called "Reading": When I meet someone who wants to be a writer, and yet doesn't read much, I wonder how that works. What would provide you with nourishment, with inspiration?....Who would call a day spent reading a good day? asks Annie Dillard. But a life spent reading, that's a good life... Reading great work is exhilarating. It shows us what's possible..." Daneile Joyce "Dani" Shapiro, the author, has written 5 novels and two best-selling memoirs. In between the author's poignant observations, she shares stories about her family background, anxieties and doubts. Born into a Orthodox Jewish family, she grew up as the only child of a middle-age, dysfunctional couple. Shapiro believes that as youngster straining to hear her parents's conversations was the beginning of her literary education. She says her emotionally unstable mother "Was my first lesson in character and point of view." This childhood, as she wrote, Isn’t a prerequisite for a writing life, of course, but it certainly helped". The author recounts some of her most painful memories, including a car crash that in 1986 killed her father and badly injured her mother. She also touches on her tumultuous love life as well as her son's terminal illness. Shapiro's mission also seems to be to debunk some of the most popular misconceptions about the writing process, to let her fellow writers know that they are not alone, that the pain they experience while writing is a normal part of the writer's life. The last chapter, appropriately called "Still Writing" closes the memoir with one of the most beautiful passages of the book: Still writing?" I usually nod and smile, then quickly change the subject. But here is what I would like to put down my fork and say: Yes, yes, I am. I will write until the day I die, or until I am robbed of my capacity to reason. Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write. Writing saved my life. Writing has been my window -- flung wide open to this magnificent, chaotic existence -- my way of interpreting everything within my grasp. Writing has extended that grasp by pushing me beyond comfort, beyond safety, past my self-perceived limits. It has softened my heart and hardened my intellect. It has been a privilege. It has whipped my ass. It has burned into me a valuable clarity. It has made me think about suffering, randomness, good will, luck, memory responsibility, and kindness, on a daily basis -- whether I feel like it or not. It has insisted that I grow up. That I evolve. It has pushed me to get better, to be better. It is my disease and my cure. It has allowed me not only to withstand the losses in my life but to alter those losses -- to chip away at my own bewilderment until I find the pattern in it. Once in a great while, I look up at the sky and think that, if my father were alive, maybe he would be proud of me. That if my mother were alive, I might have come up with the words to make her understand. That I am changing what I can. I am reaching a hand out to the dead and to the living and the not yet born. So yes. Yes. Still writing.” I've always been in awe of those that can sit in front of a blank page and create something profound, thought-provoking, thrilling, funny, seemingly out of nothing. Reading Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, truly brought this sentiment to a new level. My appreciation and respect for what writers go through in order to fulfill the dream of pursuing a creative lifestyle has only grown bigger. This memoir taught me that the writing process can be hard, scary, solitary, unappreciated and risky. But it can also be thrilling, rewarding, intoxicating and extremely fulfilling. In the introduction to the book Shapiro writes "The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to deal with rejection, Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks". Pay attention, be kind to yourself, be disciplined, don't give up, be patience, appears to be advise we can all use and apply to our own lives. ****************************************************************************** The second question I asked Julie on her review was, do you consider writing more an art of a craft? Here her answer was more nuance, and for good reason. There's probably not right or wrong answer to that question, but Shapiro's seems to be more inclined to emphasize the "craftier, practical" side of the writing process. So Julie, you were right, not only did I loved Dani's memoir, but it's also one of those books that I would come back to once in a while and that I'd be glad to recommend to many of my friends. Thank you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sophfronia Scott

    I think I picked up this book today because I know I'm on the verge of something. My husband (a teacher) and son (a fifth grader) will both be back to school tomorrow and it occurs to me tomorrow will be, really, the first day of my post-MFA life. (I graduated last month.) I will once again have the house to myself but no packet deadlines and no upcoming residency. I do have a nearly completed novel revision well underway and more projects on my plate. But still I can feel this edginess: will I I think I picked up this book today because I know I'm on the verge of something. My husband (a teacher) and son (a fifth grader) will both be back to school tomorrow and it occurs to me tomorrow will be, really, the first day of my post-MFA life. (I graduated last month.) I will once again have the house to myself but no packet deadlines and no upcoming residency. I do have a nearly completed novel revision well underway and more projects on my plate. But still I can feel this edginess: will I succumb to the "real life" pressures I held at bay during my MFA studies? These are the same pressures that pretty much doused my creative writing before I decided to seek the MFA and get refocused. I have many support mechanisms in place: my own deadlines, writing partners, applications out to artists' colonies. But I think what I needed the most I found toward the end of Dani Shapiro's excellent book of observations on the writing life. The section is called "Steward." I will keep pieces from it on my desk always: "I need to live by certain rules in order to protect my writing life." "But I took care of my family and my book got written. That was all I could manage." --Very much where I am right now: hanging on by threads, weaving this novel to completion. And this wonderful set of marching orders she quotes from the poet Jane Kenyon: Be a good steward to your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours. This is what I needed to hear. To Ms. Shapiro I say: Will do! Thank you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Abrams

    In the whole span of my life, I can count the number of books I've re-read on a single hand--ones by Flannery O'Connor, Charles Dickens, Raymond Carver, Agatha Christie. I'm the kind of reader who is always leaning forward, never circling back. There are too many unread books in front of me, from here to the horizon, to "waste time" by retracing my steps through a novel's pages. I will happily make an exception for Still Writing--not just for the beauty of language, but also for its clarity of in In the whole span of my life, I can count the number of books I've re-read on a single hand--ones by Flannery O'Connor, Charles Dickens, Raymond Carver, Agatha Christie. I'm the kind of reader who is always leaning forward, never circling back. There are too many unread books in front of me, from here to the horizon, to "waste time" by retracing my steps through a novel's pages. I will happily make an exception for Still Writing--not just for the beauty of language, but also for its clarity of instruction to me as a writer. From the first day, I decided to take small sips from this inspirational book about writing by the author of Devotion. I hesitate to call it "writing advice," because that's not really what Shapiro does. She doesn't advise, she shares and encourages. Or if she does drop pearls of advice on the page, it's only because we really, really need to hear it: Here's a short list of what not to do when you sit down to write. Don't answer the phone. Don't look at e-mail. Don't go on the Internet for any reason, including checking the spelling of some obscure word, or for what you might think of as research but is really a fancy form of procrastination....Sit down. Stay there. Shapiro, who has taught at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and elsewhere, divides her book--which is the size of a small Methodist hymnal--into three sections: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends; she then further separates everything into smaller, bite-sized sections with headings like "Inner Censor," "Fog," "Bad Days," and "Astonishment." Most of the book is written in plain-spoken language, as if Shapiro was sitting across the table with a steaming mug of tea, honestly telling me what I need to hear. Every so often, there are densely-lyrical passages which demand to be re-read and then re-read again for their music and meaning. Like this one: When it comes to storytelling (and it's all storytelling) I often tell my students that we need to be dumb like animals. Storytelling itself is primal. It's the way we've always come to understand the world around us--whether recited around a campfire, or read aloud in an East Village bar. And so it stands to reason that in order to tell our stories, we tap into something beyond the intellect--an understanding deeper than anything we can willfully engage. Overthink and our minds scramble, wondering: Should we go in this direction? Or that one? Words can become so tangled that our process can feel more like an attempt to unravel the mess we've already made. We create obstacles, then strain to get around them. Our minds spin webs that obscure the light. We second-guess. We become lost in the morass of our limited consciousness. As I turned the final page of Still Writing, I closed the book softly, held it on my lap, and spent a quiet moment at my writing desk, giving thanks for this gift from Dani Shapiro. Yes, I can count on one hand the number of books I've re-read in my life, but I plan to go back to the beginning of Still Writing tomorrow and read a section each day, continuing to glean its pages like it was an Our Daily Bread for authors.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I didn't like this book at first. I thought the writing was kind of dull and the advice kind of obvious. I'd seen this book likened to Bird by Bird, but I didn't agree with that comparison at all—Bird by Bird is an inspired piece of work, and this seemed more like a contract fulfillment. But what really bothered me about this book was Dani Shapiro's constant references to how awesome her life is. I got tired of hearing about her luxurious chaise longue with its antique blanket, the blazing fire I didn't like this book at first. I thought the writing was kind of dull and the advice kind of obvious. I'd seen this book likened to Bird by Bird, but I didn't agree with that comparison at all—Bird by Bird is an inspired piece of work, and this seemed more like a contract fulfillment. But what really bothered me about this book was Dani Shapiro's constant references to how awesome her life is. I got tired of hearing about her luxurious chaise longue with its antique blanket, the blazing fire in her fireplace, her quiet house in the countryside with its beautiful views of the Connecticut woods. I'm secure enough in my own life that ordinarily hearing about someone else's amazing life doesn't faze me, but in this case there was something so repetitive and deliberate about it. And she truly didn't seem to get that some writers (both accomplished and aspiring) have day jobs. We don't all start our day by taking our coffee mug and "padding" up the stairs to our home office, where we sit on our chaise longue and stare out at the countryside before writing for four hours. I got so exasperated that I had to put the book on hold halfway through. But in the interim, I read Katie Roiphe's The Morning After, and suddenly every other book I was reading seemed absolutely lovely in comparison. I suddenly appreciated the heartfelt, geeky enthusiasm of Infinite Jest instead of being annoyed by it. And in this case, Still Writing suddenly seemed so sensible, so gentle. When I returned to it, the references to her chaise longue seemed to diminish, and instead I noticed that there really was some good advice in here. It's still no Bird by Bird, of course, and you'll probably like this more if you've read Dani Shapiro's other books (I haven't), but in the end this was worth the read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mimi Marten

    I first heard about Dani Shapiro on the Oprah Winfrey SuperSoul Sunday show. Her quote 'If I'm present, I will miss nothing' stuck with me from that show. She said many other thing that resonated with me. She spoke my language. This book came to me as a Christmas present. I read it in small doses, like digesting in a slow motion. I wrote down many quotes to cherish Dani Shapiro 's wisdom. She is very honest and raw, sharing her personal triumphs and struggles. As Hemingway said...'Writing at it's I first heard about Dani Shapiro on the Oprah Winfrey SuperSoul Sunday show. Her quote 'If I'm present, I will miss nothing' stuck with me from that show. She said many other thing that resonated with me. She spoke my language. This book came to me as a Christmas present. I read it in small doses, like digesting in a slow motion. I wrote down many quotes to cherish Dani Shapiro 's wisdom. She is very honest and raw, sharing her personal triumphs and struggles. As Hemingway said...'Writing at it's best is a very lonely life." She makes you feel like you are not alone. That all writers struggle with the same emotions, all you have to do is persevere. You also need to show up, be present and practice discipline. This is not just a book about WRITING, it's a book about LIFE. And for writers, starting or those who have been writing for years, this is simply an encouraging and inspirational gem. "WRITING WAS WHAT SAVED ME. IT ALLOWED ME TO CREATE ORDER OUT OF CHAOS. AFTER WRITING SAVED MY LIFE, THE PRACTICE OF IT BECAME MY TEACHER."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    I've read a fair amount of books on writing. Some are beautiful. Some are inspiring. Some are mystical. Some are frustrating. I will say that Dani Shapiro manages to take the reality and the mundane of the life and calling of a writer, and infuse it with beauty, empathy, humor and encouragement. I wish she was my neighbor ... so that we might on occasion catch a glimpse of one another, in rumpled pajamas, shuffling past the window, cup of tea in hand, and wave. The silent affirmation and simultaneo I've read a fair amount of books on writing. Some are beautiful. Some are inspiring. Some are mystical. Some are frustrating. I will say that Dani Shapiro manages to take the reality and the mundane of the life and calling of a writer, and infuse it with beauty, empathy, humor and encouragement. I wish she was my neighbor ... so that we might on occasion catch a glimpse of one another, in rumpled pajamas, shuffling past the window, cup of tea in hand, and wave. The silent affirmation and simultaneous prodding-- back to work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan Albert

    I enjoyed (very much!) this inspiring collection of vignettes on writing, storytelling, and the challenges of a creative life. Practice and discipline are the basic principles of her craft. Each polished little piece is a prime example of the short personal essay. Much to learn from here; she has much to teach.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather Truett

    Last week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. I love a good book about writing, especially when I like the writer. I read a novel by Dani years ago and it was very good. I just shipped off a set of rewrites to my agent and, while I wait for him to read, I figured it was a good time to refresh my writer-spirit. I adored this book. Some writing books are too instructive and some are pretty out there, but this was a good balance of memoir (Dani has led a Last week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. I love a good book about writing, especially when I like the writer. I read a novel by Dani years ago and it was very good. I just shipped off a set of rewrites to my agent and, while I wait for him to read, I figured it was a good time to refresh my writer-spirit. I adored this book. Some writing books are too instructive and some are pretty out there, but this was a good balance of memoir (Dani has led a very interesting life) and advice. Usable advice. Sometimes, I would think, "No, that's not true," but then Dani would explain herself and I would get it. It may or may not be true for how and why I write, but it did make sense and it gave me a new way to look at my own habits and mindsets. While reading, I felt inspired to retry an old story idea. I toyed with it and thought about the things Dani said in her book. I started writing by hand, at her suggestion, though I normally compose directly into Scrivener. For the first time in years, I was able to do so without constant hand-cramps. It's a different feeling, not watching my word count with every tap of the keys. It's a free-er writing experience, and I am enjoying it. A week later, I am still writing longhand and typing the result into Scrivener every couple of days. That gives me a chance to constantly look over my writing and stay grounded in the scenes that came before. I highly recommend this book to those of you who are new to the writing life and to the veterans. On that spectrum, I fall somewhere in between, I suppose. I've been writing and publishing short pieces in some form for more than a decade, but it's only in the last few years I've taken the plunge into long fiction and acquired an agent. I found Dani's book both delightful and helpful, a lovely combination.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    I gulped this book down quickly, enjoying its loose-knit, episodic construction and Dani Shapiro's gentle yet pointed insights, and now I need to read it again more slowly. This is not a how-to book or even a book of advice, really, but an account of the shaping of one writer's sensibility and habits, conveyed in a fashion that allows the reader to see certain universals within them. A confession: I really can never get enough of accomplished writers talking of the self-doubt and frustration and I gulped this book down quickly, enjoying its loose-knit, episodic construction and Dani Shapiro's gentle yet pointed insights, and now I need to read it again more slowly. This is not a how-to book or even a book of advice, really, but an account of the shaping of one writer's sensibility and habits, conveyed in a fashion that allows the reader to see certain universals within them. A confession: I really can never get enough of accomplished writers talking of the self-doubt and frustration and "wasted time" they endure as they pursue their craft. Part of what Shapiro is doing here is explaining why that doubt and frustration and waste is unavoidable. The other part is honoring the joys of the writing life, the gift it gives those who stick with it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    3.5* In Dani Shapiro's book Still writing: The Perils and Pleasures of Creative Life, we get a window into her life as a writer. I enjoyed reading about her writing process, her thoughts and fears, and her way of overcoming the inner critic. People who like this book may also like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 3.5* In Dani Shapiro's book Still writing: The Perils and Pleasures of Creative Life, we get a window into her life as a writer. I enjoyed reading about her writing process, her thoughts and fears, and her way of overcoming the inner critic. People who like this book may also like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Possibly my new favorite book about writing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Montanaro

    Oh this book! This inspirational, practical, beautiful book. I took months to read it, making sure that I savored every word, highlighted sections, thought about it, and even took notes. I will probably go back to this book over and over. It is essentially a combination of writing advice and memoir. It is so beautifully interwoven that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. I sometimes would just sit and read sentences over and over. I absolutely love Shapiro’s writing style. I Oh this book! This inspirational, practical, beautiful book. I took months to read it, making sure that I savored every word, highlighted sections, thought about it, and even took notes. I will probably go back to this book over and over. It is essentially a combination of writing advice and memoir. It is so beautifully interwoven that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. I sometimes would just sit and read sentences over and over. I absolutely love Shapiro’s writing style. I have been following her online for the last few years but now realize that this was the first book of hers that I’ve actually read. I can’t wait to get my hands on others! If you are a writer, or just enjoy reading memoirs about the creative life, definitely give yourself a treat and pick this one up and savor every word of it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    On Writing by Stephen King and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott are my favorite writing books. Ever. The advice + stories are like nectar, and I love returning to them for insight on almost anything. I've often said writing is a metaphor for living a good life, and that is precisely how Shapiro swan dives into her memoir on the creative life. I devoured her wisdom. Soaked up her stories. And marveled at her execution. All of it stunning + brilliant. After reading only a few words, I knew her book was On Writing by Stephen King and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott are my favorite writing books. Ever. The advice + stories are like nectar, and I love returning to them for insight on almost anything. I've often said writing is a metaphor for living a good life, and that is precisely how Shapiro swan dives into her memoir on the creative life. I devoured her wisdom. Soaked up her stories. And marveled at her execution. All of it stunning + brilliant. After reading only a few words, I knew her book was well within the company of my other two favorite books. And I couldn't be more pleased.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Freund

    Five stars, five MILLION stars. I knew if I tried to write a review, I'd run out of space, so I YouTubed it. Hopefully the link will work here, but in case not, you can see me wax lyrical on it by searchign YouTube under Nancy Freund and Still Writing and Dani Shapiro. That ought to take you right to it. But if you are a writer of any kind, novice to novelist, or non-fictionist, or any creative type whatsoever, seriously -- treat yourself to this gorgeous little book. It's outstanding. http://you Five stars, five MILLION stars. I knew if I tried to write a review, I'd run out of space, so I YouTubed it. Hopefully the link will work here, but in case not, you can see me wax lyrical on it by searchign YouTube under Nancy Freund and Still Writing and Dani Shapiro. That ought to take you right to it. But if you are a writer of any kind, novice to novelist, or non-fictionist, or any creative type whatsoever, seriously -- treat yourself to this gorgeous little book. It's outstanding. http://youtu.be/h-Lf3diutII

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bright

    Very inspiring book if you have any interest in the writing process. Reads like a novel as the author takes you through her personal life and journey of becoming a writer. She is also very realistic about the sacrifices and discipline needed to write a book, but ultimately leaves you feeling that to create is the most rewarding experience you can do for yourself. I may be convinced, now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angela Risner

    To be honest, I had never heard of Dani Shapiro before this book. I only found it through a post on Facebook that mentioned it. I will definitely be looking at the rest of her titles. For me, this book serves as a reminder that despite the push toward science and mathematics in our schools today, creative endeavors in writing, art, etc. are still worthy. Not to say that those who love science or math aren't creative - they are. I remember speaking with a computer programmer once and he told me th To be honest, I had never heard of Dani Shapiro before this book. I only found it through a post on Facebook that mentioned it. I will definitely be looking at the rest of her titles. For me, this book serves as a reminder that despite the push toward science and mathematics in our schools today, creative endeavors in writing, art, etc. are still worthy. Not to say that those who love science or math aren't creative - they are. I remember speaking with a computer programmer once and he told me that he found what he did very creative. Often to those of us outside of a discipline, we don't see the draw of it. What I enjoyed about the book was the prevailing lesson that you don't need to wait for The Big Idea before you sit down to write, to sculpt, or whatever your endeavor is. You just need to begin and the story, sculpture, picture will emerge. Shapiro also echoes what I've heard time and time again about your chosen work: discipline. Show up. Be present. Some favorite moments: * Don't think too much. There'll be time to think later. Analysis won't help. You're chiseling now. You're passing your hands over the wood. Now the page is no longer blank. There's something there. It isn't your business yet to know whether it's going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer. Now you've carved the tree. You've chiseled the marbled. You've begun. *When two people who shouldn't be married to each other bring a child into the world, that child - I'm distancing myself here, making myself into a character - that child cannot help but feel as if she's navigating the world on a borrowed visa. Her papers aren't in order. Her right to be here is in question. *I sit down everyday at around the same time and put myself in the path of inspiration...If I don't sit down, if I'm not there working, the inspiration will pass right by me, like the right guy in a romantic comedy who's on the other side of the party but the girl never sees because she' focused on her total loser of a date. *I haven't waited to be in the mood. I've just gone ahead and done it anyway, because that's what I've been doing for years now. *She is practicing, because she knows that there is no difference between practice and art. The practice IS the art. *It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing. *"Know your own bone," Thoreau wrote. "Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, gnaw it still." Of course, the beginning of this powerful piece of wisdom is: "Do what you love." In order to do what we love - whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists - we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. Know you own bone. This self-knowledge can be messy. But it is at the center of our life's work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. Our deepest stories - our bones - are our best teachers. Gnaw it still. *When I first learned of Buddhism's eight vissicitudes - pain and pleasure, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute - I was taught that it is unskillful to compare. We will never know what's coming. We cannot peer around the bend. Envy is human, yes, but also corrosive and powerful. It is our job to pursue our own dharma and covet no one else's. Highly recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jodi Sh.

    Dani Shapiro has written a book for writers. Not about writers, although it is, but for writers, and especially for those who are not lucky enough to have an MFA cohort, or a writing group, or a mentor, or some sort of active writing community. And those of us who do. Because even when you have all the community in the world, writing is a solitary pursuit. "Still Writing," divided into small, reasonably sized chunks that can easily be read on a single subway ride--acts as a companion, reminding Dani Shapiro has written a book for writers. Not about writers, although it is, but for writers, and especially for those who are not lucky enough to have an MFA cohort, or a writing group, or a mentor, or some sort of active writing community. And those of us who do. Because even when you have all the community in the world, writing is a solitary pursuit. "Still Writing," divided into small, reasonably sized chunks that can easily be read on a single subway ride--acts as a companion, reminding you that you are not the only one who forgets why you're doing this, panics after hitting send, doesn't know how to respond to "Are you still doing that writing thing?", gets stuck in the middle, the end, the beginning, feels like you've lost a child when you're done, worries about Aunt Margaret's reaction, has an annoying and corrosive inner censor, and so on and so on. I took this book out of the library - I try to only buy books that change my life, and I thought, well there's not a lot I don't already know here, but by the end I'd dog-earred easily 30 pages out of 200. Things I needed to be reminded of. Quotes I wanted to remember. Sections I assumed were written just for me. Of the other 170 pages, probably 100 of them had been dog-earred by some other writer who felt the same way, but needed to be reminded of other things and remember other quotes. It's general and personal at the same time, and while you may not learn anything new about craft, you will find comfort, validation, and companionship--which is more than anyone has the right to expect from a book. So, now, I have to go out and buy it. If you're a writer, you'll probably want to do the same.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Philippa

    This is the first book I've read of Dani Shapiro's and it won't be the last. This is a beautiful book that will have a place beside Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones on my inspiration shelf. It's very different to Bones, in that it's less of a practical "let's get you writing" book and more a meditation on the whole business of being a writer, the craft, the mindset, how you interact with the world. I felt like a warm friendly arm was wrapped around me while reading it, as Shapiro reassu This is the first book I've read of Dani Shapiro's and it won't be the last. This is a beautiful book that will have a place beside Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones on my inspiration shelf. It's very different to Bones, in that it's less of a practical "let's get you writing" book and more a meditation on the whole business of being a writer, the craft, the mindset, how you interact with the world. I felt like a warm friendly arm was wrapped around me while reading it, as Shapiro reassured me that she's been there too. Having finally fully completed my first novel last year (after a three year labour) and worked full time as a freelance journalist until recently, the experiences Shapiro shares in Still Writing were so familiar I would sometimes gasp or smile at the recognition. There have been many times over the past few years where I wondered what on earth I was doing (!) and Still Writing was a comforting and inspiring reminder that I'm not alone! A must read for all writers, particularly those who are still finding their way. But, as Shapiro reflects, finding your way as a writer seems to be a lifelong process. Thank you Natasha for this beautiful Christmas gift :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    This is one of the best books I've ever read about writing, bar none. Much better than some much more famous books on writing that are touted at every writing class or seminar. If you want to write, or you want to write better, read this book. I read the Kindle book but I have ordered a paperback copy and plan to go back through it, highlighting and taking notes. Yes, I know you can do those things on Kindle but I'm old-fashioned. If a book is important to me, I want to hold it in my hand, I wan This is one of the best books I've ever read about writing, bar none. Much better than some much more famous books on writing that are touted at every writing class or seminar. If you want to write, or you want to write better, read this book. I read the Kindle book but I have ordered a paperback copy and plan to go back through it, highlighting and taking notes. Yes, I know you can do those things on Kindle but I'm old-fashioned. If a book is important to me, I want to hold it in my hand, I want to see that yellow highlighter mark, I want to search its pages for recommended books, quotable quotes, advice that speaks to my heart. And somehow that all seems more real with a paper book. Electronic media is like quicksilver. It slips out of your hands when you're not paying close enough attention. Like Dani Shapiro, I like to put pen to paper, at least until my arthritis flares up, then I can stop and type what I've written into Word. But it starts out as an organic process, from my brain to my fingers to the page. Read this book. What else can I say? I would give it 4.5 stars if I could, which would make it an almost-classic in my world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    I loved this book. Written in a conversational tone, this book is not so much about the craft of writing, but one writer's thought's and feelings about the writing life; what it takes, and what it gives back. Not only is this book full of inspiration, it made me feel connected to a wider community of writer's by showing we all share the same fears and doubts, and the same inexplicable need to write. While reading I was torn between wanting to take my time over it so it wouldn't be over too quickl I loved this book. Written in a conversational tone, this book is not so much about the craft of writing, but one writer's thought's and feelings about the writing life; what it takes, and what it gives back. Not only is this book full of inspiration, it made me feel connected to a wider community of writer's by showing we all share the same fears and doubts, and the same inexplicable need to write. While reading I was torn between wanting to take my time over it so it wouldn't be over too quickly and being unable to put it down. I can see myself turning to this book again and again. I would highly recommend 'Still Writing' to all writer's, but especially to fans of 'Writing Down the Bones' by Natalie Goldburg and 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott. Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Denice

    I picked this up at my local library knowing absolutely nothing about it or the author, and now I have a new favorite book on writing, surpassing even Stephen King's (for me, anyway!). Shapiro strikes the perfect balance between conveying her own writing experiences, offering compassionate, empathetic encouragement for writers, and sharing bits of her personal story in a way that left this reader with both a sense of camaraderie and an affirmation that an ongoing, satisfying writing life is real I picked this up at my local library knowing absolutely nothing about it or the author, and now I have a new favorite book on writing, surpassing even Stephen King's (for me, anyway!). Shapiro strikes the perfect balance between conveying her own writing experiences, offering compassionate, empathetic encouragement for writers, and sharing bits of her personal story in a way that left this reader with both a sense of camaraderie and an affirmation that an ongoing, satisfying writing life is really possible. Shapiro addresses issues like handling harsh criticism from family members, coping with discouragement and rejection, and finding the writing process that best works for each individual. The book is divided into small sections, making it the perfect thing to pick up during pistachio breaks when creative sessions stall. Great stuff here. So glad she kept writing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    LATOYA JOVENA

    Its comforting to know that successful published authors doubt themselves, their work, or their right to write at all. Not comforting to know that the only way to get through it is to keep writing in spite of it all. Dani Shapiro is brutally honest. Writing is never pretty, not always worthwhile, and often leaves us feeling vulnerable. But writers do it, because they have to.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I can't stop reading and rereading this wonder memoir on the writing life. Both practical primer and inspirational guide, Still Writing has earned a place on my shelf of favorite books about writing, alongside Lamott, King, and Dillard. Dani Shapiro has done it again. I can't stop reading and rereading this wonder memoir on the writing life. Both practical primer and inspirational guide, Still Writing has earned a place on my shelf of favorite books about writing, alongside Lamott, King, and Dillard. Dani Shapiro has done it again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julie Timmer

    I *loved* this book. I expect I will read this once/year, starting now. Maybe once/6 months. Highly recommend.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    It's readable, but if you've ever read any other books on writing, you will get nothing new from this one. It's readable, but if you've ever read any other books on writing, you will get nothing new from this one.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Wonderful. Although I am not a writer nor do I have any aspirations to be one, I always thought it would be an interesting life and career. And I will pretty much read (and love) anything Dani Shapiro writes, so even though I debated skipping this one, I am so glad I didn't. For aspiring writers, it should be required reading. I learned so much about the actual day-to-day life a writer might have. The need for quiet, for a special place to write, for rituals, for tuning out the world (especially Wonderful. Although I am not a writer nor do I have any aspirations to be one, I always thought it would be an interesting life and career. And I will pretty much read (and love) anything Dani Shapiro writes, so even though I debated skipping this one, I am so glad I didn't. For aspiring writers, it should be required reading. I learned so much about the actual day-to-day life a writer might have. The need for quiet, for a special place to write, for rituals, for tuning out the world (especially the lure of the internet and social media distractions), for becoming completely enmeshed in one's work. For anyone else who appreciates good writing, well-chosen words, and sentences that sing, this book will be a real pleasure. Dani Shapiro is a memoirist, and that clearly comes through even here. This is so much more than a how-to manual. The author's inner life is once again shared with her readers, and she uses her own experiences, thoughts, and feelings to gently teach and instruct. Lovely!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I spent about two years reading this book, dog-earing the pages, cracking the spine, making notes. This small little book, part memoir, part cheerleader, part writing guide, will take a coveted place on my shelf where I keep books on writing that really speak to me (Stephen King, Natalie Goldberg). While I've read most of Shapiro's memoirs and have read and heard so many interviews with her, many of her stories were not new to me; but the writing part was. I love books where I feel like I'm not I spent about two years reading this book, dog-earing the pages, cracking the spine, making notes. This small little book, part memoir, part cheerleader, part writing guide, will take a coveted place on my shelf where I keep books on writing that really speak to me (Stephen King, Natalie Goldberg). While I've read most of Shapiro's memoirs and have read and heard so many interviews with her, many of her stories were not new to me; but the writing part was. I love books where I feel like I'm not so alone in the world, that there are others who are in their heads all the time. I'm not even a million miles close to Shapiro in my writing, but felt that while reading this, that whatever it may be and whatever I think of it, at least I'm doing it. Still writing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Callahan

    I spent this summer reading all four of Dani Shapiro's outstanding memoirs. This one I wish to own, as it promises to serve as perennial inspiration for this writer. In my opinion, Still Writing belongs right alongside the other writing bibles such as The Elements of Style. Thank you for this treasure, Dani Shapiro. I spent this summer reading all four of Dani Shapiro's outstanding memoirs. This one I wish to own, as it promises to serve as perennial inspiration for this writer. In my opinion, Still Writing belongs right alongside the other writing bibles such as The Elements of Style. Thank you for this treasure, Dani Shapiro.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Butterfield

    I'm so glad I stumbled upon this book! There was a lot of hard-won wisdom here, full of gems. If you're looking for encouragement and inspiration for a writing life well-lived, you'll want to pick this up! I'm so glad I stumbled upon this book! There was a lot of hard-won wisdom here, full of gems. If you're looking for encouragement and inspiration for a writing life well-lived, you'll want to pick this up!

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