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.