Friday, April 4, 2014

Just Write

In all my work, I try to say —
'You may be given a load of sour lemons,
why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?'
   Maya Angelou

Today we’re celebrating Maya Angelou, a writer who had the good sense to be born in National Poetry Month.

When you consider that she’s achieved international success as a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, historian, and filmmaker — there’s obviously a whole lot there to celebrate!

So, what exactly is her secret?

Well, Ms. Angelou reports that even though she lives in a fine, large home, she rents a hotel room in town. She’s had all of the paintings and decorations removed from the space, so it’s a lot like the blank page all writers must confront each day. In fact, the only items she keeps in the room are a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible.

Every morning she heads off to her hotel writing room at about 6:00 in the morning. There, she uses only ballpoint pens and yellow pads to write for about six or seven hours.

So within those hours, does everything that spills from the pen of this award-winning honorary doctorate recipient effuse perfection?

Of course not.

As Maya puts it:

"What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, 'Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'"

She also says:

I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.

And here’s my favorite:

“Of course, there are those critics — New York critics as a rule — who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing… It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy.”

There you have it — Maya Angelou’s recipe for success.

So celebrate her birthday today by whipping up a batch of it for yourself —

Create your own special space, and then…

Just write.

PROMPT: If life has handed you lemons, use them to create a fine meringue pie or pound cake. Remember, it’s ALL material. Then try making this your new daily mantra — just write, just write, just write. And before you know it, those words of yours are bound to sing…

just right.


  1. I love that. It takes me forever to make it loOk easy. Nice post Barb.

    1. Thanks, Maribeth! I'm a forever-and-a-day kind of writer as well. I have absolute faith in the power of the rewrite... rewrite... and rewrite. :)