I read this book about a year or so ago and I kind of fell in love with it and Dani Shapiro. It is written in short, easy to read chapters which makes it perfect to pick up when you have a few minutes to spare but not enough time to really dedicate to reading. Which is why this book holds a special place on my writer's bookshelf. When things get tough, and let's face it things often get tough, I reach for this book and flip to a section that resonates with my current situation. The short dose of inspiration can often jolt me out of my funk and get me back into writing! I know this is a big claim, and I'm not saying this book is a magic cure to writing challenges, but it sure does make me feel better. At the very least, I can return to my writing knowing that this big, successful author has experienced something similar to what I am going through.
The book is divided into three sections, Beginning, Middle, and End. I've pulled quotes from the three that really struck me. I hope you feel just as inspired!
On getting started...
"Build a corner. This is what people who are good at puzzles do. They ignore the heap of colors and shapes and simply look for straight edges. They focus on piecing together one tiny corner. Every book, story, and essay begins with a single word. Then a sentence. Then a paragraph. These words, sentences, paragraphs may well end up not being the actual beginning. You can't know that now. Straining to know the whole story before you set out is a bit like imagining great-grandchildren on a first date. But you can start with the smallest detail. Give us the gravel scattering along the highway as the pickup truck roars past. The crumb of food the wife wipes from her husband's beard. The ripped bottom of a girl's faded jeans. Anchor yourself somewhere - anywhere - on the page. You are committing, yes - but the commitment is to this tiny corner. One word. One image. One detail. Go ahead. Then see what happens." (page 17)
This feels like straight up good advice! Especially when getting started on a larger project, or any project for that matter. I often get myself overwhelmed at the beginnings, thinking of how I'm going to get my characters to where I see them in the end of the book, which isn't the most productive place to start writing. I love doing puzzles, so this metaphor really works for me. Find the corner and piece just that small section together first. That is manageable. That is doable. I can do that. In fact, that doesn't seem hard or overwhelming at all.
Grab my free Writing Life Checkup printable to see what is stopping you from getting started.
On the process...
"We may have written one book, or many, but all we know - if we know anything at all - is how to write the book we're writing." (page 219)
This came as part of a paragraph about the writing process never getting easier. I have talked with many new writers who feel they aren't doing it "right" because it is hard, but this idea that each project will need it's own thing, will bring even the most seasoned writers back to the place of beginning again, is an encouraging thought.
You can listen to Dani Shapiro on a lot of big-name podcasts these days, like Oprah, Marie Forleo, and the Beautiful Writer's Podcast. I love listening to her interviews and I can't wait to read more of her work. You can also find her online and she has a lovely Instagram feed.
I hope you pick up this book for yourself. It is a great addition to a writer's library!
Hi, I'm Lia! I'm an author and the creator of Cozy Writer's Room. I believe in the power of storytelling and love helping others tell their stories using simple productivity tools like printables!