Dani Shapiro
January 6, 2009

On New Beginnings

Happy New Year. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some peace and quiet. The holidays, while lovely, were also way too busy. Today is Jacob’s first day back at school, and tomorrow it’s meant to snow. A lot. Which probably means that I have to adjust my expectations about what kind of week this is going to be (e.g. highly productive). Unless it can be considered productive to bake more cookies and cook more soup, which is what we seem to do on snow days.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to begin–both as a creative act, and in life generally. It was Joseph Brodsky who once said: “Endings are difficult, beginnings are nowhere to be found. But oh, to begin, to begin, to begin…” In working on Devotion I am beginning again constantly. I finish one piece of the puzzle and there is empty space, blank white space before the next one begins. On good days this feels exciting, associative, an adventure. On not-so-good days, it feels more like my head is going to pop off and go flying into the ether. But it doesn’t matter how I feel. All that matters is that I sit down and do the work.

The other day, Jacob and I were leaving a hotel together, and I left my laptop case along with the manuscript for Devotion with the lady behind the check-out desk while I went to dig the car out of the snow. Jacob asked:

“Mommy, what would happen if you lost Devotion?”
“I don’t know honey. I don’t want to lose Devotion–that much I know.”
“But if you lost it, would you have to start all over again?”
“I guess I would have to start all over again.”

The nature of this book has turned my attention to the beauty that can be found in randomness. In the connections that are made, seemingly with no order, that make something surprising happen. Something out of the ordinary, special, and somehow true. This morning I stumbled on this youtube video made by a writer from Chicago, Amy Krause Rosenthal. I don’t know her, though we exchanged emails a few years back after I admired a piece of hers about motherhood and midlife. Take five minutes and watch it. It made me smile, and it started my day on a hopeful note. Thanks, Amy.