cover image Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Dani Shapiro. Atlantic Monthly (PGW, dist.), $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2140-0

In this hybrid guide, meditation, and memoir, novelist and memoirist Shapiro (Devotion) shares thoughts and strategies on the act of writing and the writing life. Focusing on the creative process itself, Shapiro divides her book into three parts—Beginnings, Middles, and Ends—and sprinkles thoughts in from all corners. For example, “Beginnings” contains ideas on how to begin a piece, as well as how to shore up self-confidence when young and just starting out. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a dearth of specifics in relation to craft. Concrete nuggets, such as an anecdote about unconsciously overusing the word “muffled”—a repetition Shapiro thinks indicates a lack of closeness to her characters—are the exception, not the rule. More prevalent are inspirational statements such as: “I reach for treasures in this underwater landscape. Ones that only I can see.... Courage is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Many of the clichés do contain truth—“It is the job of the writer to say, look at that. To point. To shine a light”—but little in the book distinguishes it from a crowded field. (Oct.)