“We must believe, without the slightest evidence that believing will get us anywhere.”

“Act as if you are a writer. Sit down and begin. Act as if you might create something beautiful, and by beautiful I mean something authentic and universal. Don’t wait for someone to tell you it’s okay. Take that shimmer and show us our humanity. That’s your job.”

“Remember, as you begin, that you are in a remote and exotic place–the literary equivalent of far eastern Bhutan. It’s a place where no one can find you. Where anything is possible. Where, for a time, you are free, liberated from the expectations and ideas of others. You are trekking and visas are infinite.”

“I’m going to write a short, bad book. Here goes nothing. 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 will accept it, the further away we are from accomplishing anything alive.”

“Ultimately a writer is someone who writes. And a writer who writes is someone who finds a way to give herself permission. The advanced degree is useless in this case. There is no magical place of arrival. There is only the solitary self facing the page.”

“Fill your ears with the music of good sentences, and when you finally approach the page yourself, the music will carry you.”

“So it stands to reason that in order to tell our stories, we tap into something beyond the intellect–an understanding deeper than anything we can willfully engage. Overthink, and our minds scramble, wondering: words become so tangled that our process can feel more like an attempt to unravel more of the mess we have made.”

“But when we feel our way through a story, we are following a deep internal logic. The words proceed us. We hear them.”

“The truest and most artful self-revelation occurs when the self is subsumed to the art. The self becomes the vehicle. The art does not say look at me. If anything, it reflects ourselves back at us, saying: look at yourself.”

“When we set our hopes on this life, we are staking our future on the contents of our mind. On our ability to create and continue to create. We have nothing else but this.”

“But if she’s an artist–if she possesses that fusion of gift, hunger, endurability, and finally, a willingness to embrace risk–she won’t have much choice in the matter. This life chooses us.”


Read Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. 

%d bloggers like this: