With the recent passing of the late great Maya Angelou, this is the closest I will ever come to sitting down and having a conversation with one the best writers in history. If she could be courageous enough to get her thoughts and writing out into the world, I could, at the very least, do the same and only hope I touch a fraction of the lives she has. Maybe it’s just me, but when I read something really good, such as the amazing words of Maya Angelou, I get so excited I can barely stand it. So much so that it makes it hard to continue reading because I’m still feeling every word from the last quote as I go on to the next. It’s incredibly overwhelming.
1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I am in love with the world and, therefore, I try to act in a way that would make the world fall in love with me back. I try my best to forgive its faults so that I may enjoy its beauty, in hopes that it will forgive my faults.
2. “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
For to be loved is to laugh, and to love in return is to cry.
3. “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
To truly love is to overcome, or at the very least, to try your hardest for the sake of love. Love more than you fear and you will go far in your endeavors.
4. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
You can do exactly that just by being an artist and having your work enjoyed.
5. “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Sharing your art with someone who enjoys it is like a good hug: it feels good for both parties involved.
6. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
You deserve it.
7. “What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.”
It can be scary, sure, but if you don’t do something with your time, you’ll have spent all that time being scared of losing that time for nothing.
8. “Nothing will work unless you do.”
The only way to see your dreams realized it to try them, even if you make mistakes. Remember, the ones who don’t make mistakes are the ones who are doing nothing at all.
9. “All great achievements require time.”
But not all time creates great achievements. Use your time and your skills wisely.
10. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”
You may succeed far less then you are defeated, but it may only take that one time to give you the power to keep going.
11. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
Don’t just be the starving artist, don’t just keep your drawings under lock and key, and don’t let others dictate your worth.
12. “Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’ Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I deserve it.'”
So tell yourself that you deserve it. No matter how many people it may seem are going towards the same goal as you, know that there are a lot of people in the world, and there is a place for you to be great.
13. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind.”
Your dreams are more real than you know.
14. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Express that story, in whatever medium you need to.
15. “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”
It’s amazing how words, paint, and pencil can be so powerful that just from being seen, they can be felt.
16. “The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you – black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.”
Art is for all, even for those who cannot write, draw, or paint.
17. “I believe that every person is born with talent.”
The good and bad news is that there are a million different things to try your hand at to find where your skills lie.
18. “I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.”
Don’t let bad writing stop you from becoming a writer, bad art from being an artist, or bad anything stop you from practicing.
19. “Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’ – which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.”
Even the very talented and famous Maya Angelou was once an amateur.
20. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
From reading to music: it’s all an escape into another world. How wonderful it is to get to know another’s mind so intimately through their art, even if you don’t understand it. Artists are magicians.
21. “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
Craft yourself well.
22. “All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”
No matter how different your art is from my art, it is all still art.
23. “Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.”
How powerful it is to realize we all have the same potential inside us, if only we chose to pursue it.
24. “I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, ‘I write for money.’ Yes, I think everybody should be paid handsomely; I insist on it, and I pay people who work for me, or with me, handsomely.”
After all, time is priceless.
May this wise and hardworking soul rest in peace, and may her words forever live on.