Friday, May 30, 2014

My, Oh Maya

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

How I miss her already.

This little blue planet is not the same without her…

It’s a whole lot bluer.

But still, it’s a time to celebrate a life well-lived…

And a woman who did not leave this world with her soul’s music caged inside.

So, I thought I would repost the Angelou inspiration that I wrote for April’s poetry celebration…

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

So, what exactly was her secret?

Well, Ms. Angelou reported that even though she lived in a fine, large home, she also rented a hotel room in town. She had all of the paintings and decorations removed from the space, so it was a lot like the blank page all writers must confront each day. In fact, the only items she kept in the room were a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible.

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

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

Of course not.

As Maya put 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 said:

“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 today by whipping up a batch of it for yourself —

Create your own special space, and then…

Just write.

Happy travels, Maya.


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. Lovely post, Barb. Yes, the world will miss her.

    Making it look easy when it's not... Thank goodness we writers have drafts! I find it encouraging whenever I hear about how hard writing can be for writers I admire.

    1. Thanks, Dawn! I'm always encouraged when I find out about the struggles of other folks in the flock. I tend to write and rewrite then rewrite again... whether it's a story, a blog post, a Facebook post... or this reply! ;)