“I prefer to think of [a writing routine] as rhythm rather than discipline. Discipline calls to mind a taskmaster, perhaps wielding a whip…Rhythm, however, is a gentle aligning, a comforting pattern in our day that we know sets us up ideally for our work.” Dani Shapiro, STILL WRITING
From Dani Shapiro, bestselling 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, a meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate companion to living a creative life. 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 shares her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers.
I have several nonfiction books and essay collections on the writing process I’ve been saving for the right mood (aka: when I need important reminders.) This is one of those times, and for me, STILL WRITING was the perfect balm for a profession that often leaves one hollow or raw at the completion of a work.
With her elegant phrasing and straightforward organization, Shapiro can be relied upon to not only give voice to the messy feelings one has throughout the writing process, but also offer solutions, comfort, and camaraderie across time and space. From the first whiff of premise through publication, Shapiro is unafraid (or rather, willing) to expose her insecurities and the challenges she faces each step of the way.
Some of my favorite quotes:
- “Writing…is an act of faith. We must believe without the slightest evidence that believing will get us anywhere.” (p. 23)
- “You do not…need to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” (p. 118)
- “When I consider endings, I think of music–in particular, the experience of sitting in a concert hall at the end of a performance…When those last notes have sounded, they linger. The music doesn’t screech to a halt. It can’t. We–the listener, the reader–have to lean into it. To meet it as it hangs in the air, as it fades away, until finally it is only memory.” (p. 194)
I recommend STILL WRITING to all writers at all stages of the process. Shapiro’s collection should be shelved alongside the greats, like BIRD BY BIRD and ON WRITING.
Writers: Have you read STILL WRITING? What are your favorite books on the craft of writing?