President Obama, in presenting the Medal of Freedom to Toni Morrison on Tuesday, remarked that as a single mother she
would carve out a little time in the evening to write, often with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings. Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.
I loved that image of a child’s spit up on the tablet – and remember it myself. No doubt I love it because it is so personally familiar.
But it provoked me to want to explore the wisdom of Toni Morrison on the subject of writing. In reading, I came up with the following, which I thought I’d share:
- “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
- “I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can’t teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort.”
- I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don’t know why I should be asked to explain your life to you … It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me … If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water.
- We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
And my personal favorites:
From Song of Solomon:
- “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
And from Beloved (my favorite Morrison book):
- “You are your best thing.”
I hope they inspire you as you start your writing today. They certainly inspire me. – Meg