another old writer (i’m newly obsessed with)

Toni Morrison is 80.  She published her first book at 39.

I’m taking a ton of summer classes (by ton I mean three) and for two of them I had to read Toni Morrison novels–A Mercy and The Bluest Eye.  I’ve sort of bookended her career, I suppose.  Now I’m tearing through Beloved on the side of all my homework (i.e. write four response essays and read two other novels by Wednesday…) and I think it might very well be the best book I’ve ever read.

I love that I can go through nearly two decades of school (counting kindergarten) and still pick up new writers to be obsessed with.  This reminds me of why I think it’s silly for writers to be competitive–sure, our own success and glory is pretty great, but isn’t it also great to read good books?  Don’t you want publishers to release as many good books as they possibly can? Don’t you want the people who write these good books to be your friends?

I will probably never “know” Toni Morrison, but for the record, she did recently appear to me in a dream wherein we were going out for pizza and bowling and she was really nice. And now that I’ve transitioned back to the main subject of this post, I am going to say, once again, that we can learn from writers like her that there is no need to rush our writing careers or put pressure on ourselves about how much we should have published by when.  Just write well, live a long time, and write a lot.  And read Beloved if you haven’t yet.

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4 Replies to “another old writer (i’m newly obsessed with)”

  1. This is such great advice. I was just talking to Jackie, my wife, about her creativity (choreography and dance) which she chose to “explore” for a 1/2 hour today in an empty studio at her work, and we both agreed that the enjoyment of creativity is not in the product but in the process. The biggest barrier to my writing for 10 years was the idea I had to be “professional” if I was to write. I don’t think that is true. I think it is better to just be joyful. I’ve come to see that there is no barrier between reading and writing for me as a writer so, yes, I want as many fantastic books, plays and stories to come alive as possible. Blogs too.

  2. I like this, though I also like a quote Bret Anthony Johnston made when he taught a sprint workshop at Miami when he said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I like his honesty–sometimes the creative process totally sucks; We have to push ourselves to wade through the muck before we can get anything decent on the page and what is more horrible than a two hour session of terrible writing? But on other days, you lose yourself. You enter into that realm. Joy is a tricky thing, but it’s great when it’s there.

    The creative process is something I’m still trying to understand, but I agree: reading is definitely a big part of it. Bret also said that you’re only as good as you read, and I tend to disagree with that. Sometimes I need to read bad writing so I can motivate myself. This is a confession, but sometimes after I ditch writing for long periods of time, I’ll read a bad story, and say, “for God’s sake, I can do better than this.” I’ll head straight to the page.

    All of that said, I love your idea of erasing the barrier between reading and writing. Madeleine L’Engle talks about it as a lake that we’re all feeding with the streams of our writing. I get excited when I think there is too much good stuff out there, I’ll never tackle it all.

    1. I would definitely consider teaching the book and could see it fitting lots of classes. I’m not sure I’d get the chance, but it would be fun to teach the Literary Ghost Story…

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