Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro

As I wrote back when I posted on John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, I enjoy reading books on writing, even though I’m not a writer, or at least a creative one, myself. The same holds true for Dani Shapiro’s new book Still Writing. The book is part memoir, part writing guide, part inspirational text. I found it less useful as a reader than some of the other books on writing I’ve read, as it really is aimed more directly toward creative writers than the others, but it was still interesting and enjoyable. The book is written in short sections, generally only a couple pages each, that take on a different aspect of writing — facing the blank page, for example, or developing a writing schedule that works for you, or dealing with feedback from readers. The sections often tell stories from Shapiro’s life — her upbringing as an only child with unhappy parents, for example — as a way of describing what shaped her identity as a writer. By doing this, she gives readers a reason to trust her and to take her advice seriously. Her persona is warm and wise. I imagine that if I were a writer and were looking for inspiration, I would find it here. As it is, the book was a window into the writing life that in moments made me wish I did write. But I believe strongly what people say about writing because you need to. Writers do it because they feel it’s something they have to do, and they would do it whether they got published or not. Mostly, I’m happy to be a reader, and to get to enjoy the fruits of other people’s hard labor.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro

  1. I’ve read so many books ON writing…. my favorite being maybe Stephen King’s…… and strangely enough, he is far from being my favorite writer. Anne Lamott’s book about writing only discouraged me. This one sounds good.

    • I liked King’s book quite a lot, and I think that one is useful for all kinds of writing. Shapiro’s is more focused toward creative writing of the sort I don’t generally do. I haven’t read Lamott’s book yet.

  2. Ha, maybe I should read this while I’m doing my writing course. I do like writing, but at the moment I’m doubting whether personal essay will ever be my genre. I still don’t like revealing myself that much!

    • I can see that the personal essay is a difficult genre to work in. I love reading them, but I’m not sure I’d have the fortitude to reveal much about myself if I tried to write one. It does take a lot of bravery and/or foolhardiness!

  3. I tend to read books about reading rather than writing, although the one can often illuminate the other. I heard about a new one this morning, ‘Reading and the Reader: The Literary Agenda’ by Philip Davis. It seems to be the first in a new series called ‘The Literary Agenda’ published by OUP. I’m hoping the university library will be getting copies.

  4. Sounds like this one might be best suited for beginning writers or those who are having a crisis of confidence. I do like reading books about writing even though I have no plans to write a book. I still find them useful most of the time for thinking about writing from a reader’s perspective but also for ways to think about writing for blogging.

    • I agree that Shapiro’s book might be well-suited for beginning writers, or, especially, for those having a crisis of confidence. It’s very inspirational and encouraging, and it makes you want to be a writer.

  5. Maybe I should read this one for a little inspiration. Not doing as much creative writing these days as I’d like.

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