Lessons from a Master: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is best known for her series of six autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adulthood experiences. In 1971 she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her volume of poetry, “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie.’”

The following quote by Angelou is very reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk at Ted.com entitled “A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius”:

“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.’”

Beginning with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Angelou has used the same writing ritual for many years (from: “Conversations With Maya Angelou”):

“When I’m writing . . . I get up at about five . . . I get in my car and drive off to a hotel room: I can’t write in my house, I take a hotel room and ask them to take everything off the walls so there’s me, the Bible, Roget’s Thesaurus and some good, dry cherry and I’m at work by 6:30. I write on the bed lying down–one elbow is darker than the other, really black from leaning on it–and I write in longhand on yellow pads. Once into it, all disbelief is suspended, it’s beautiful.”

From Wikipedia:

Maya Angelou (pron.: /ˈmaɪ.ə ˈændʒəloʊ/; born Marguerite Ann Johnson; April 4, 1928) is an American author and poet. She has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She has received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

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