Thursday, July 17, 2014
Summer Recommended Reading: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by @DaniShapiro
I love getting an inside look at a writer's life and Dani Shapiro's Still Writing does that.
The book is physically beautiful (I have the hardback copy) and the pages are not flush, but slightly staggered giving readers the pleasure of owning a nice looking book.
Here's an excerpt from it:
Riding the Wave
Here’s a short list of what not to do when you sit down to write. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t look at email. Don’t go on the internet for any reason, including checking spelling of some obscure word, or what you might think of as research, but is really a fancy form of procrastination. Do you need to know the exact make and year of the car your character is driving? Do you need to know which exit on the Interstate has a rest stop? Can it wait? It can almost always wait. On the list of other, less fancy procrastinations, especially when the urge to leap up from your desk, accompanied by a wild surge of energy, comes just at the moment when you might actually begin writing: laundry, baking, marketing, filling out insurance claims, writing thank you notes, cleaning closets, sorting files, weeding, scrubbing, polishing, arranging, removing stains, bathing the dog.
Sit down. Stay there. It’s hard––believe me, I know just how hard it is, and I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get easier. Ever. Get used to the discomfort. Make some kind of peace with it. Several years ago, I decided to learn how to meditate, though I thought, as many do, that I’d be bad at it: I can't stop thinking for more than two seconds. I don't have the patience. I'm too Type A. I can't sit still. But I needed something that would get me away from my desk and, at the same time, bring me peace and clarity. All of my writer friends have a version of this: my friend Jenny runs. John cooks barbecue. Mary swims. Ann knits. These are meditative acts––ones which allow the mind to roam, and ultimately to rest. When I sit down to meditate, I feel much the same way as I do when I sit down to write: resistant, fidgety, anxious, eager, cranky, despairing, hopeful, my mind jammed so full of ideas, my heart so full of feelings that it seems impossible to contain them. And yet…if I do just sit there without checking the clock, without answering the ringing phone, without jumping up to make a note of an all-important task, then slowly the random thoughts pinging around my mind begin to settle. If I allow myself, I begin to see what’s really going on. Like a snow globe, that flurry of white floats down.
During the time devoted to your writing, think of the surges of energy coursing through your body as waves. They will come, they will crash over you, and then they will go. You’ll still be sitting there. Nothing terrible will have happened. Try not to run from the wave. If, at one moment, you are sitting quietly at your desk, and then––fugue state alert!––you are suddenly on your knees planting tulips, or perusing your favorite online shopping website, and you don’t know how you got there, then the wave has won. We don’t want the wave to win. We want to recognize it, to accept the wave’s power and perhaps even learn to ride it. We want to learn to tolerate those wild feelings, because everything we need to know, everything valuable, is contained within them.
The entire book is written in this easy to read, conversational voice.
She talks about doubt, inner censors, and so many of the things we know and have to deal with as writers.
It's a good reminder we're not alone.
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
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Written by Kelli Russell Agodon