Maya Angelou: She Taught Us Why The Caged Bird Sings

Most of the time when you hear a celebrity has died, it’s just shocking. But everyone once in a while when a famous person passes away, you feel a genuine sense of loss. Like there’s now this absence in the world—your world—because they are no longer in it.  The first time this happened to me was when Whitney Houston died.

Now, with the news that Maya Angelou is gone, it’s happening again. At a young age I either wrote a paper on her or read her autobiography—I forgot which one, but it left me with the sense that she’s someone I’ve known for most of my life.

Maya Angelou

(Photo by York College ISLGP)

One of the Most Inspiring Writers of Our Lifetime

If I had to use one word to describe Maya Angelou, it would be inspiring.

Inspiring as a Person

She’s inspiring as a person because she had this crazy emotional strength. She’s quoted so often because her philosophy is uplifting. She makes you believe that you too can be victorious, triumphant, conquering, etc. no matter what you’re dealing with. Even her autobiography is entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Think about that for a second.  The idea of a bird being trapped yet still finding a reason to sing.

Maya Angelou encouraged you to have compassion and faith in yourself, and to embrace the gift of life even in the most difficult times. And she did so both through her words and her actions.

Inspiring as a Writer

She is also inspiring to me as a writer. Maya Angelou had a gift. It was more like Whitney Houston’s voice–innate talent perfected over time–than simply a mere reflection of discipline, in my opinion (although she obviously worked hard). She had this ability to lyrically turn a phrase, but in a way that was also accessible. She accomplished what most writers aspire to do, I think. She touched people. Through her poems and books she showed readers that she understood them. And we also understood her.

Anyway, it’s a sad day. But I’m glad to say that I lived during the Maya Angelou era.




Why I Blog About Noveling

My poor blog, oh how I have neglected you so. Some issues prevented me from posting the past couple of weeks. First, I had my busiest week at work this entire year (boring, but true). Second, I had serious difficulty mentally preparing myself for all the editing I have before me and wasn’t feeling inspired. Thankfully,  I was able to regroup and come up with a plan—or more accurately, tweak my original plan, which was to give myself until January 14, 2014 to finish this novel. Initially that’s when I wanted to complete my first draft and I guess after that I was going to edit as quickly as possible? I don’t know. The point is that now I have until that date to make this thing as good as I possibly can!

But anyway, that’s not what this post is about.

This post is to discuss my decision to share the noveling experience with the whole world. It’s been on my mind because The Write Practice competition (to become a regular contributor) has me thinking about this idea of a “platform” or an audience for your writing (check out my guest post here!!). I definitely appreciate the marketing/sales component of it all, but that was not my original motivation for starting this blog.

The 2011 Suntrust National Marathon made me do it.

Let me explain. My third year of law school I decided to train for a marathon. I told a few people so they understood when I said “I went for a two hour run this weekend” or when they saw me scarf down three times as much food as normal. In general, however, I kept quiet because I was scared that I would fail. I figured that if I didn’t post about my training on Facebook or remind my friends of the race date then when I didn’t show up on race day, it would be no big deal.

After FOUR MONTHS of training, it was a week before the race and I knew I would be able to finish. I sent an e-mail to friends and family inviting them to wake up at 7 a.m. and watch! Unfortunately, my Dad and my brother were traveling that weekend and most of my friends couldn’t motiviate the early rise–they had no idea the race was important to me. I had deliberately prevented them from being a part of the journey—both triumphs and struggles—that was culminating that week. Race day, I knew I was about to do this incredible thing I wanted to share with the world, but only two people were able to make it because I had been too scared to talk about it.

I don’t want that ish to happen again.

From day one, I have had a healthy fear that this would all lead to no where. Trust me, once again I was tempted to hide away and not tell anyone I was writing a novel. But the marathon experience stuck with me. If, after all this hard work, somehow this thing gets published, I KNOW I will want to share it with everyone I’ve ever met! And I want them to be excited!!

More importantly, I’ve discovered that informing people about a difficult thing you are trying to do actually makes it easier. Because everyone knows I’m trying to write a novel, I am able to receive encouraging words at unexpected times from unexpected people—making the process feel less solitary and pushing me to keep going. The marathon taught me that my fears are a reason to reach out to people, not to exclude them. What I’m saying is this: including you in my journey has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, so thanks for all the support so far!!