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I’m an urban person who loves living in the country.
– Dani Shapiro
When I sit down with my notebook, when I start scribbling words across the page, I find out what I’m feeling.
I knew I wanted to be a writer before I knew that being a writer was possible.
Writers are outsiders. Even when we seem like insiders, we’re outsiders. We have to be. Our noses pressed to the glass, we notice everything. We mull and interpret. We store away clues, details that may be useful to us later.
My dad died when I was 23. His death was sudden and shocking – the result of a car crash – and I never got to say goodbye.
Sometimes when I’m at my desk, I’ll realize that I have contorted myself completely, and I haven’t moved for hours, and that my legs have fallen asleep. I am elsewhere, not in my body, not in the room, not in my house.
Our minds have a tendency to wander. To duck and feint and keep us at a slight remove from the moment at hand.
I was raised in an orthodox Jewish home where it was expected that, as a woman, I’d marry an investment banker, raise kids in the suburbs and go to temple. I wasn’t raised to set the world on fire.
I do strongly identify with being Jewish. I was raised Orthodox and had a childhood complicated by the fact that my father was deeply religious and my mother was not.
I don’t think it’s possible to separate out the strands of a writer’s history, circumstances, life events, and that writer’s themes.
With each book you write you have to learn how to write that book – so every time, you have to start all over again.
Devotion, as it relates to the title of my memoir, means fidelity – as in fidelity to a person or a practice. I think it’s certainly possible to feel devotion without having faith, at least in the religious sense of the word.
My desk is covered with talismans: pieces of rose quartz, wishing stones from a favorite beach.
I had never really felt settled in Brooklyn. I think it had to do with growing up in New Jersey and being someone who her whole life wanted to live in the city, and the city meant Manhattan.
I’m a full-time writer, which means I have the entire day to get my work done. But that can also be bad, because that means I have the entire day to get in my way.
The mind is a monkey, hopping around from thought to thought, image to image. Rarely do more than a few seconds go by in which the mind can remain single-pointed, empty.
When it comes to the personal essays I write, I just convince myself that no one will ever read them.
Novels are my favorite to write and read. I do like writing personal essays, too. I’m not really a short story writer, nor do I tend to gravitate to them as a reader.
As writers, it is our job not only to imagine, but to witness.
If you are a writer or any kind of artist, if you change something as fundamental as where you live – the way you live – then I think you change the very instrument that is trying to make the art.
It’s essential to have sacred time for writing. All successful authors have some daily commitment to keep on-track and moving forward.
I was raised in an observant Jewish household, so for me, Hebrew prayers – the sounds, the sunlight streaming in from the stained-glass windows of a synagogue – bring my father back to me as surely as if he were sitting next to me, my head pressed against his shoulder.
Success is so fleeting; even if you get a good book deal, or your book is a huge success, there’s always the fear: ‘What about the next one?’
I am devoted to my husband and son. I am devoted to the practices and rituals that imbue our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose, that help me to live my days in the most emotionally and intellectually productive manner. I am devoted to the idea of devotion itself.
Confidence is highly overrated when it comes to creating literature. A writer who is overly confident will not engage in the struggle to get it exactly right on the page – but rather, will assume that she’s getting it right without the struggle.
Our pain hides beneath these fluttering, random thoughts that run through our heads in an endless loop. But there’s so much freedom in getting to know what’s under there, the bedrock.