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. I work at the language.
I've learned to rely on the strength I inherited from all those who came before me-the grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and brothers who were tested with unimaginable hardships and still survived. 'I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand,' Maya Angelou proclaimed in her poem 'Our Grandmothers.' When I move through the world, I bring all my history with me-all the people who paved the way for me are part of who I am.
Maya Angelou entered our lives at Virago in 1984, when we first published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. "Entered our lives" is too tame. She danced, sang, and laughed her way straight into our hearts. She brought us a best-seller, but more than that, she brought us a reminder that the human need for dignity and recognition is a gift easily given to one another, but also frighteningly easy to withhold.
Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I'm proud that Mike Schur and I rejected the idea that creativity needs to come from chaos. I like how we ran our writers' room and our set. People had a great time when they came to work on our show and that mattered to us. I like to think the spirit we had on set found its way onto the show.
You did the best you could, the best you knew how at the time." It was something like that. From Oprah on an Oprah show. Then I believe my quote above was from Maya Angelou on the Oprah show, not Oprah herself. I had heard it before but it was on Oprah's show again 1-7-09 and she said Maya had said it.
Even great, best selling writers produce works that fall flat from expectations. This writing thing isn't easy and everything you produce won't be a best seller, but you must write anyway. You have to write because you love it, because it fuels you, because you can feel the stories living inside you, nudging you, prodding you, itching to get out and the only thing worse than writing it and failing is not writing it. As the late Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Even if your work doesn't resonate with others, it is still worth writing. And that in itself, is what's important.
Nancy Arroyo Ruffin
That kind of thinking [that writers must alleviate their guilt for leading a creative life] is based on the idea that the creative life is somehow self-indulgent. Artists and writers have to understand and live the truth that what we are doing is nourishing the world. William Carlos Williams said, "It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there." You can't eat a book, right, but books have saved my life more often than sandwiches. And they've saved your life... But we don't say, oh, Maya Angelou should have silenced herself because other people have other destinies. It's interesting, because artists are always encouraged to feel guilty about their work. Why? Why don't we ask predatory bankers how they alleviate their guilt?