about still writing


I’m a sucker for a book with a clever title.  Still Writing by Dani Shapiro is a smart book with a clever title that is about continuing to write, examining the nuances and looking for the light in a creative life.

It is a pretty pink book, and I’ve been carrying it around with me the past week.  It fits nicely in my bag, and I bring it out when I’m sitting in car wash line-ups, or waiting in the school hallway for my son to finally amble into view.

Dani Shapiro is an accomplished writer, and she’s certainly at a point in her writing career where she merely instruct us humble writers to stop our complaining and just get to the work of writing a book.  She doesn’t take this approach at all, and I’m grateful to her for that.

Still Writing is a lovely book.  It is like your kindest friend, who tells you your new haircut looks great even when you know you look like crap.  These are my favourite kind of books (and friends).  I need a gentle hand and a touch of cheerleading to inspire me to lurch forward, for I do a bang-up job of my own self-scolding, lecturing and loathing.

I read non-fiction to be inspired, motivated or educated.  Dani has written a book of inspiration.  Her writing is astute without being overt, and she sprinkles personal anecdotes and stories from other writers to support her points.  I dog-eared Still Writing as I paged through it, and my favourite passage is about ‘Shimmer.’  A shimmer is a gleam of light that can lead us to writing.  An idea, a trace from our past, our own inspiration.  I love this term shimmer.  When I describe writing, I say that I get words stuck in my head and I had to write them down to get them out.  These ideas and words churn round and round in my brain, and some of them rattle at such a high volume that I propel myself to my notebook just to write them down so they will shut up.

Here is the beauty of Dani Shapiro’s book.  While I call this inspiration ‘churning and rattling’, she calls it ‘shimmer and gleaming’.  I love this.  She examines the creative life, which can be a tortuous and painful thing, and pulls the beauty out of it.  I can hear her voice speaking to me, softly encouraging me to continue on.  She’s standing at my front door with a chai latte and a handwritten card to cheer me up. She’s phoning me to remind me I’m not alone in my quiet house in the middle of the day, and I’m not lacking because I don’t have a ‘job-job.’ I imagine her in her chaise, her dogs underfoot, her cappuccino in hand.

This is what the best writers do – they use their quiet voices to guide us to read more, to write more, to think more.  The best part is:  we don’t even realize that they are doing it.  Still Writing inspired me to write this.  I bet it will inspire you to write something (anything!) too.


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