Illustrations by Casey Webb
1. “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.
2. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Express that story, in whatever medium you need to.
3. “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.
4. “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.
5. “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.
6. “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.
7. “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.
8. “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.
9. “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.
10. “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.
11. “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.
12. “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 sweet soul rest peacefully.