Thursday, September 25, 2014

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

After reading Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, I felt as if I had become friends with its author Dani Shapiro. It seemed as if we had sat for a long time over coffee and she had shared with me her writing strategies - what works; what doesn't - and also bits of her life away from the page.

I had not read of this book or heard of its author, but there I was browsing in an out-of-town used bookstore that also had some new books on its shelves (this one's copyright date is 2013), and I was quite taken by the cover and the illustration of the author on the inside of the book jacket.

I enjoy reading books about writing by writers and this one didn't let me down. As a matter of fact, I think it will go right away to the top of my Books to Be Re-Read pile.

As with the best teachers, Ms. Shapiro doesn't tell you what to do based on something she has read or been taught. She lets the reader watch her struggle with the pen and the page. She lets the reader see her sitting cross-legged on her chaise lounge first thing in the morning with her laptop resting on a cushion in her lap. She allows the reader to be with her as she grows restless and gets up to get another cup of coffee, returns to her computer, gets up to feed the dog, returns to her computer, gets up to stare into space, returns to her computer. 

 As she claims:
"Sitting down to write isn't easy."

Don't I know it!

In between sharing her successes and failures with writing, Ms. Shapiro gently pulls the reader along with stories of her lonely childhood, her wild and self-destructive teen and college years, her marriage and the birth of her son, and the death of her parents. 

The book is divided into three sections - Beginnings, Middles, Ends - each filled with her short essays on writing and life covering such varied topics as Mondays, Control, Mess, Five Senses, Envy, Tics, and Change.

It doesn't matter whether Ms. Shapiro is writing about writing or weaving tales of her experiences, her prose is at the same time spare and thoughtful and entertaining. 

This is not just a wise book for writers, but for creative people of all sorts. In other words, all of us.

Its message: Show up and persist.


  1. To the top of my TBR list it goes--it sounds like just the thing for me as I struggle with sitting down to write myself.

    1. Kathy, I actually thought of you when reading this book. I just knew "Still Writing" would appeal to you! Hope you find it as inspiring and entertaining as I did.

  2. I love books like these...I heard one author say the key to being a writer was "butt in chair", which is kind of the same thing as "show up and persist". A little bit of talent also helps. :) Great post. This is one book I definitely want to read. And soon. Happy Reading!

    1. Hi, Lark. Yes, the author's message of 'persist' is one I need to remind myself of often. Hope you get a chance to read "Still Writing" and find it inspiring.

  3. If I had not been drawn into this book by your review here, Belle, I surely would have been drawn in by the book's cover. I will be looking for this. Thank you.

    1. Ah, Penny, I think this is just the book for you. Full of spirit and you will identify with the 'sitting down to write' bits.

      On another note, I was distraught to hear of the death of our Duchess of Devonshire. I know we both have read and loved a few of her books. She was quite a woman!