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To be honest, I had never heard of Dani Shapiro before this book. I only found it through a post on Facebook that mentioned it. I will definitely be looking at the rest of her titles.

For me, this book serves as a reminder that despite the push toward science and mathematics in our schools today, creative endeavors in writing, art, etc. are still worthy. Not to say that those who love science or math aren't creative - they are. I remember speaking with a computer programmer once and he told me that he found what he did very creative. Often to those of us outside of a discipline, we don't see the draw of it.

What I enjoyed about the book was the prevailing lesson that you don't need to wait for The Big Idea before you sit down to write, to sculpt, or whatever your endeavor is. You just need to begin and the story, sculpture, picture will emerge. Shapiro also echoes what I've heard time and time again about your chosen work: discipline. Show up. Be present.

Some favorite moments:

* Don't think too much. There'll be time to think later. Analysis won't help. You're chiseling now. You're passing your hands over the wood. Now the page is no longer blank. There's something there. It isn't your business yet to know whether it's going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer. Now you've carved the tree. You've chiseled the marbled. You've begun.
*When two people who shouldn't be married to each other bring a child into the world, that child - I'm distancing myself here, making myself into a character - that child cannot help but feel as if she's navigating the world on a borrowed visa. Her papers aren't in order. Her right to be here is in question.
*I sit down everyday at around the same time and put myself in the path of inspiration...If I don't sit down, if I'm not there working, the inspiration will pass right by me, like the right guy in a romantic comedy who's on the other side of the party but the girl never sees because she' focused on her total loser of a date.
*I haven't waited to be in the mood. I've just gone ahead and done it anyway, because that's what I've been doing for years now.
*She is practicing, because she knows that there is no difference between practice and art. The practice IS the art.
*It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing.
*"Know your own bone," Thoreau wrote. "Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, gnaw it still." Of course, the beginning of this powerful piece of wisdom is: "Do what you love." In order to do what we love - whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists - we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. Know you own bone. This self-knowledge can be messy. But it is at the center of our life's work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. Our deepest stories - our bones - are our best teachers. Gnaw it still.
*When I first learned of Buddhism's eight vissicitudes - pain and pleasure, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute - I was taught that it is unskillful to compare. We will never know what's coming. We cannot peer around the bend. Envy is human, yes, but also corrosive and powerful. It is our job to pursue our own dharma and covet no one else's.

Highly recommend.
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on October 23, 2013
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 received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.
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on October 4, 2013
Writng is a murky business. Dani Shapiro is that clear, calm voice that soothes a writer's self doubts.

She let's you know that
we've all been there before and most important priority is not to lose focus.

Trust the process. Embrace the struggle. Stay calm and ride it out. Even when its uncomfortable.

It will reward you in more ways than you'd expect. It's the writing that matters.

No single writer has the right and only way.
Each writer has to find what works their best and honor it. Showing up regularly. Commit.

Ms. Shapiro shows that it can give an enriching life if you seriously open up to all. Teaching you about yourself, your life and even the past.

It has garnered a place on my 'most favorite' shelf..
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on March 28, 2014
Is it hyperbole to say this book changed my life? I don't think so. I have been a professional journalist for 30 years, but I never understood what it meant to be a Writer until I read Dani Shapiro's book. She has taught me by example how to approach the blank page with fearlessness and fortitude. She has given me "permission," to use her term, to write from my heart by encouraging me to dig into my soul. Whenever I feel doubts about my own writing, I pick up her book and read a few pages and then I'm back on track. But caveat emptor: Shapiro's definition of "writing" is demanding; it requires that you give all of yourself to the task. If you are ready to make that type of commitment, you will find "Still Writing" a source of strength and inspiration.
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on October 7, 2013
Danii Shapiro;s book will be a classic- like Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and Anne Lamont Bird by Bird. Her vulnerability, sensitivity, warmth and amazing stories warmed my heart and I learned SO much about writing!!
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on October 7, 2013
I can't wait to finish the book to write a review -- I love it. Shapiro just said the worst days are when a book is published -- how awful it is to put your soul in between two covers of a book and nobody notices or says anything -- the world keeps spinning -- my words not hers but you get the picture. I'm here to tell her and you that she need not worry -- this book is just as good -- better, in fact, as you'd expect -- than her previous ones. I couldn't wait for it to be published and I was right to be so eager -- it's fabulous. My only trouble is reading slow enough to take it in -- I want to gobble it up. It's a lovely book -- do yourself a favor and read it!
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on February 21, 2015
This book was recommended to me by a fellow writer and good friend. I was unaware of Dani's background, her teaching, her several published books and the rest of her impressive bio. Still, my friend insisted (as friends do) this was for me. And despite having read over 28 books on the craft over the past fifteen years while I also battled writer's block, insecurity, doubt ... you know, the list goes on and never really goes away.

A fresh voice (youngish at forty something) with thoughts on old subjects. Funny, snarky, pithy, and yet valuable. I read it in three sittings and marked many things. I felt like a friend in my office for that time period. If ever I had an opportunity to attend one of her writing retreats or just hear her expound, I'm there. Highly recommended for writers at any stage. Enjoyable too!
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on November 7, 2013
Dani Shapiro has written a beautiful and inspiring book that every writer or aspiring writer should read. She beautifully describes the struggle to begin, the hard work to continue and the insecurities and doubts a writer has when reaching the end.

As a self-published author, without an agent or a publisher offering support and guidance, I often feel as if I am writing in obscurity. Working on my second novel, Ms. Shapiro's book came to me at just the right time. Like a good friend, her words of encouragement and pearls of wisdom helped me reach the finish line.

I highly recommend this gem of a book to anyone who writes, who has thought about writing or loves to read and is curious about the writing process. This is a truly generous and thoughtful book. It should be in every writer's library. Thank you again, Dani Shapiro.
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on January 31, 2015
This is an excellent work on a writer’s life with sweet and sour experience in writing life. Being a seasoned writer, Dani generously shares her life of being a writer with readers who would intend to advance their understanding of how to be a writer and writing life. This book encompasses a trilogy of her writing life: beginnings, middles, and endings. Each part is filled with her moving personal memories and advices on writing.

The beginnings part starts with her personal memories from an unhappy childhood to rebellious life experience while she was in college. Childhood life experience could be an important source of materials to write and affect how Dani perceive the world (P.127, P.191). According to Dani, writing is an ongoing journey to understand the meaning of life, define her existence, and establish order out of chaos. The writing process requires her to have high level of patience, discipline, endurability to eschew distractions and stay with uncertainty, and more importantly, to live in the present moment in witnessing what she is writing with imagination of the past and future. Everybody can be a writer when he/she begins to identify an edge to write through darkness (P.88) in a place where it can write best (P.21).

The middles part of the writing process is analogous to build a boat in a seamless ocean while she has to summon stamina, optimism, hope, rhythm to work (P.100), and courage (P.91). The interesting part to note is that a writer can be very vulnerable to despair while he/she determines to allow outside readers (friends or writing folks) to make comments on the manuscript. He/she would struggle against endless uncertainty while creative writing does not have an “always so” (P.136) and a literary form in GPS (P.114), though a writer has to create a frame to keep himself/herself in line in writing (P.165). For most of writers who are urban creatures, Dani gives maintains that writing is to engage with their “dharma” to identify sources of inspiration and avoid distractions by those fleas of life (P.131, 138). In this part, Dani also narrates her “before and after” (P.106) moments when she was in her 30s, including how she stayed with painful and unpredictable traumas in life, including her fastidious and emotional mother, the sudden death of her father and her relatives (P.134), and her son’s dire prognosis. Her previous life experience is to learn how to embrace and accepts such moments because like the writing process, there can be numerous “before and after” in the middles.

To Dani, the endings of writing are exciting to writers because this is the moment the boat reaches/is going to reach the shores. Being a writer is a self-fulfillment occupation (P.225, P.227) to Dani but the whole writing life also involves profound practical risks (P.180) which is similar to the building of skyscrapers from the top down. A writer has to endure solitary, darkness, uncertainty and astonishment (P.204, P.213, P.218), repeated memory of what he/she has written (P.196).

I am not a writer but I get insightful ideas from this book which is relevant to how I think my life with fortitude, stamina, intellect, and meaning. A great book for readers who love to understand writing life and get life better.
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on September 6, 2015
I loved the main message of this book, which for me was Dani's call to other writers telling them they're not alone in their writing struggle. The author brings up the perils, annoyances and joys in the writer's life. It's as if she was calling "You're not alone!" throughout the pages of "Still Writing." I liked this easy read, organized in short chapters, which as a writer, I found very uplifting and easy to relate to.
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