Still Writing by Dani Shapiro: Review

Title: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Author: Dani Shapiro
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: October 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: GoodReads First Reads Giveaway

I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review.

According to GoodReads:

"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.

Still Writing is a collection of short essays (1-3 tiny pages) about Shapiro's life and writing. The book is divided into three sections: beginnings, middles, and ends. When I started the book, I was a bit iffy about it. I couldn't get comfortable with the format, and I felt like the essays didn't join together. But just like my friend's dog who needs to yank his blanket around before getting comfortable and going to bed, by the end of the beginnings section, I had fallen in love with this little book. Everything suddenly clicked. I had been reading lots of action SF&F books, and this book is the complete opposite of that. This little piece of creative nonfiction is quiet and thoughtful and needs to be read in small doses. With the constant little breaks with each little essay, you are subconsciously encouraged to put the book down and live your life a little more creatively.

I loved this book so much. It reminded me of one creative nonfiction class that I took and another one that I didn't take and regret to this day for passing up. I want to buy copies of this book and send it to my friends and to my creative nonfiction professor. I want to read this book again and underline it and write notes in the margin.

I am not a writer with a capital W, nor do I want to be. I like reading and the idea of being a writer sounds lovely, but I don't think I can do the time (I am not what you would call a self-starter, outside motivation is something that I really need). However, this book spoke to me. This is a book that speaks to anyone who lives a creative life or has lost his or her way.

This book is perfect in so many ways. Each sentence is thoughtful and each essay is "tight." At the end of each essay, I never felt like more need to be said. Shapiro was able to say what needed to say in just a handful of paragraphs each time. The flow worked well going from discussing beginnings, to middles, to ends. I want to reread the book again, so I can notice the flow at the beginning of the book better.

My only critique of this book is more of a wonder. Shapiro refers to some of her other books that she has written. I wonder, if you are familiar with Shapiro's writing that some of the essays would feel repetitive, because she discusses some of the events in them in this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 quills.


Chanzie said...
October 26, 2013 at 3:36 AM

Awesome review! Now I want to read this book :) I love it when it all just comes together and just clicks. I especially know the feeling when you want to buy everyone a copy! Hmm Let me go put this on my TBR list :)

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...
October 27, 2013 at 12:37 AM

You have such eclectic reading tastes Pam.

Unknown said...
October 27, 2013 at 1:32 AM

I have to keep people on their toes! :)

Unknown said...
October 27, 2013 at 1:34 AM

I love discovering that one special book. It always seems to pop up when you aren't looking for it. :)

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
October 27, 2013 at 1:34 AM

Lovely review, and I enjoy this type of book to keep by my bedside. Often I will finish a book before I am ready to fall asleep and if I start a new book I end up seeing the clock strike 2 am..which is a bad thing..since I end up sleep deprived, but reading one or two essays or a short tale is perfect.

Berls said...
October 27, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Wonderful review and I love the sounds of this book. As an aspiring writer, it speaks to that side of me. But it also just sounds like a lovely book read in short doses. I'm going to check it out, thanks!

Unknown said...
October 27, 2013 at 9:46 PM

This is the perfect book when you want to read something short but thoughtful.

Unknown said...
October 27, 2013 at 9:48 PM

This book sounds like a great fit for you. It is one of my favorite nonfiction books that I read this year.

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