Book to Live By

My official goal as posted on Goodreads is to read 35 books this year. One of my unproclaimed 'sub'-goals is to read more non-fiction. So while perusing the 'new arrivals' section on my recent trip to the library I found Dani Shapiro's book Still Writing.

I need to own this book. I want to paper my room with its pages. I want to tattoo her words on my body, write them on index cards and tape them around the house to remember them always (the family may not like that last one). I want this book. I'm only on page 30. I'm still at the beginning and I'm usually cautious about falling too hard too fast in love with a book. But this is one of those books that I want to read slowly to savor, but I also want to read it as fast as I can so I can KNOW all that she has to say.

Now, it's true that aside from the 600 some odd posts here on this blog and my 38,000+ tweets I have never had a single thing published. It is also true that beyond a story I wrote for a Christmas event at church, an essay entered in a contest when I was a teenager and the required essay and other writing for English classes I also struggle with getting anything finished. Nonetheless, this book speaks to me. It's a language that I understand in a way that I don't always with books on photography, math and even some crafting or art. It's both validation and provocation. It shows me (instead of only telling) that writing is hard. That there is an inner dialogue, a fight against oneself as much as against the words. That there is a sort of magic in the discovery, a certain pleasure in denying oneself other (easier pleasures) to get the story down...if only we'll take that risk. And a risk it is.

Thirty pages in this, is not a glory-seeking tale of she overcame and won against what she calls 'her censor'. It is not a pep-talking tome to those unsure if they can write, should write, want to write. Books of that type have their place (and I've read them in the past and have liked some). This book, simple and plain-speaking, exploring the triumphs and travails of the creative life, is what I needed now. I'm glad I found it.

I've been hesitant to call myself a writer at all. But given how much my feelings align with what she's describing, given that I haven't fully abandoned this blog (although I only wrote 2 posts last year...what's that about?), given that I still scribble scenes for each of my unfinished projects and add to that pile with new ideas all the time, I think I am one. A messy one, uncoordinated and gangly...but trying. Still writing.

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