A best-selling author’s thoughtful examination of her life and the creative process that has defined it.
Shapiro (Devotion, 2010, etc.) offers an intimate look at why, after the many ups and downs she has experienced in both her life and her career, she is “still writing.” The acts of living and literary inscription are inextricably intertwined for Shapiro. To talk about one, she must necessarily talk about the other. With this in mind, she divides her book into three sections: beginnings, middles and ends. Shapiro credits a “lonely, isolated childhood,” which made reading and writing “as necessary as breathing,” as what set her on the path to authorship. At the same time, she lays out what she sees as the necessary conditions for the work of writing: for example, understanding where and how you create best and giving yourself permission to not know where the act of writing will take you. “Writing, after all, is an act of faith.” The middles are trickier to negotiate. Shapiro was in midlife when she published her first memoir, which dealt with the “mess” of her 20s. Not long after that, her infant developed life-threatening seizures. Finding structure in the midst of chaos, being willing to start again and learning to live with uncertainty were the keys to her personal survival, just as they are key for writers lost in the morass of middledom. Endings are both a reward and a challenge. Shapiro is settled and happy, and she is successful enough to write full time. But she also knows her world is fragile. Despite the difficulties inherent in the writing life, it is still what she would choose, not only because it has forced her to transcend herself, but also because it is something she must do. “The only reason to be a writer,” she notes, is because you have to.”
Cleareyed, honest and grounded.