dani shapiro on writing and self doubt

“I knew I wanted to be a writer before I knew that being a writer was possible. It’s easier to see in retrospect. I look back now at the girl I was — a voracious reader, the kind who reads beneath the covers with a flashlight, and an avid writer of letters that were full of fantasy and invention — at the time I wondered if there might be something very wrong with me. I secretly feared that I was a pathological liar. But in fact I was living in my imagination, which was something for which I had no permissible form. I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, in a New Jersey suburb, and I didn’t know artists or writers. I simply didn’t know it was possible. It wasn’t until I got to Sarah Lawrence and started to see real live working writers in the flesh — Grace Paley was a teacher of mine, and just watching her commute up from the city, and teach her workshops, and meet with students who sat on pillows on her office floor … that sense of a life as a writer/teacher/wife/mother/activist (she was always getting arrested for civil disobedience – you’d come to class and find a note tacked to the door: Grace is in jail) gave me my first window into the possibility of a different kind of life.”

(more here)

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