Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share 6 things you can learn from Toni Morrison on writing.
Toni Morrison was an American novelist, editor, and professor. She was born 18 February 1931 and died 5 August 2019.
She examined black experience (particularly black female experience) within the black community in her writing.
She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and she received the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved.
After teaching at various universities, she joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1989 until she retired in 2006.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
To celebrate the anniversary of her birthday, I found these nuggets of wisdom from the author. I hope they inspire you.
6 Things You Can Learn From Toni Morrison On Writing
1. Writing Can Make You Kinder
‘I feel more friendly when I am writing, nicer to people, much more generous, also wiser. I am full of a kind of tenderness toward people and all they have to hide, all they have to construct. Not pity, not sympathy, just tenderness. Knowing that the job of being a human is so hard, and it is the only job there is left—though we keep on pretending otherwise. If I am in that good place and I run into someone I dislike, I feel more human and they seem more human.’ (O Magazine)
2. Writing Brings Order To Life
‘…for me writing meant having something coherent in the world. And that feels like…not exactly what I was born for, it’s more the thing that holds me in the world in healthy relationship, with language, with people, bits of everything filter down, and I can stay here. Everything I see or do, the weather and the water, buildings… everything actual is an advantage when I am writing. It is like a menu, or a giant tool box, and I can pick and choose what I want. When I am not writing, or more important, when I have nothing on my mind for a book, then I see chaos, confusion, disorder.’ (O Magazine)
3. Write In The Morning
‘I’m very, very smart in the morning, and everything is clear. By noon it’s over. Then as the day wore on, I got dumber and dumber. That used to be my habit. I thought I did it because I had small children and I wanted to write before they got up. But then when they grew, I was still doing it and still preferring it.’ (NEARTS)
4. Listen To Your Characters
‘I try really hard, even if there’s a minor character, to hear their memorable lines. They really do float over your head when you’re writing them, like ghosts or living people.’ (NEARTS)
5. Don’t Overwrite
‘I have been more impressed with myself when I can say more with less instead of overdoing it, and making sure the reader knows every little detail. I’d like to rely more heavily on the reader’s own emotions and intelligence.’ (NEARTS)
6. Writers Are Necessary For Humanity
‘Writers — journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights — can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace, and they stanch the blood flow of war that hawks and profiteers thrill to. […] Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination. A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.’ (Brainpickings)
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If you enjoyed this, you will love:
- Warren Ellis’s 3 Questions To Find A Story
- Keith Waterhouse’s 12 Ground Rules for Writers
- Meg Cabot’s Advice To Young Writers
- Cathy Hopkins’ Top 10 Writing Tips
- Haruki Murakami On Writing
- Laini Taylor: 5 Really Useful Writing Tips
- William Safire’s 33 Fumblerules Of Grammar
- Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules For Writers
- Writing Advice From The World’s Most Famous Authors
TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.