By: Dani Shapiro
Atlantic Monthly Press (October 1, 2013)
Still Writing was an encouraging delight. I write, and of course, I have completely fallen into the cliche position of immensely enjoying books about writing. Cannot. Look. Away. This book belongs on the shelf beside Bird By Bird and On Writing. Of course, I loved that Shapiro points to being an only child as almost being a prerequisite for the writing life. I’m so sorry that most of you will not qualify for this. It’s sad, really. But you know who does qualify? I do.
Two of my favorite quotes:
The more we have at stake, the harder it is to make the leap into writing. The more we think about who’s going to read it, what they’re going to think, how many copies will be printed, whether this magazine or that magazine will accept it for publication, the further away we are from accomplishing anything alive on the page.
It is the job of the writer to say, look at that. To point. To shine a light. But it isn’t that which is already bright and beckoning that needs our attention. We develop our sensitivity—to use John Berger’s phrase, our “ways of seeing”—in order to bear witness to what is. Our tender hopes and dreams, our joy, frailty, grief, fear, longing, desire—every human being is a landscape. The empathic imagination glimpses the woman working the cash register at a convenience store, the man coming out of the bathroom at the truck stop, the mother chasing her toddler up and down the aisle of the airplane, and knows what it sees. Look at that. This human catastrophe, this accumulation of ordinary blessings, of unbearable losses. And still, a ray of sunlight, a woman doing the wash, a carcass of beef. The life that holds us. The life we know.