©2019 by Literary Natives.

WRITING ADVICE

A collection of timeless content to inspire your craft.

MOURNING NTOZAKE SHANGE

'I had remarkable contemporary colleagues whose work inspires me to this day like Jessica Hagedorn, Thulani Davis, or Susan Griffin or Alta. They still inspire me and I keep discovering new ones like Jessica Care Moore from Detroit. I work with young poets Herind Tinson in Virginia and Mariposa Fernandez in the Bronx. I encourage them. I try to stay in touch with them. I love new voices. I’m concerned with what they are thinking about. It is invigorating.'

This weekend we mourned the death of Ntozake Shange, American playwright, poet, and thinker. To commemorate her life and writing, here's a link to a Shondaland interview where the the author discusses the complexities of writing and self-expression through illness, and also reflects on the triumphs of the black arts movements in the 1970s.

Photo credit: Britannica

AUDRE LORDE ON FEAR AND WRITING

'I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out my ears, my eyes, my noseholes — everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!'

In​ this Brain Pickings article, Maria Popova explores Audre Lorde's lifelong enquiry into how to make creative use of emotion and suffering.

 

Illustration by Hallie Heald.

COLSON WHITEHEAD'S RULES FOR WRITING

'Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.”'

Colson Whitehead offers some much needed humour and depth to some well-known rules for writing.

Photo Credit: New York Times

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ANAIS NIN: WHY I WRITE

"I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living."

Anais Nin, author, diarist and philosopher answers the perennial question of 'why do you write?' Her answer is deeply moving and reminds us that literature can offer a writer a place of safety and solace.

Photo credit: Carl Van Vechten

A CONVERSATION WITH TONI MORRISON

'Toni Morrison: After my first novel, The Bluest Eye, writing became a way to be coherent in the world. It became necessary and possible for me to sort out the past, and the selection process, being disciplined and guided, was genuine thinking as opposed to simple response or problem-solving. Writing was the only work I did that was for myself and by myself.'

This comprehensive interview with the living legend Toni Morrison is an ode to language. She talks about her long career in publishing, and most importantly of all, why she writes.

Photo credit: Jill Krementz

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THE AUTHORITY OF A WRITER: AN INTERVIEW WITH NIKKI GIOVANNI

Right at the beginning of the century, in an interview set in a university book store, Nikki Giovanni was asked what advice she would give to young writers.

Nikki Giovanni: Let's own it. This is mine. This is how I feel about it. The catchword I use with my classes is: the authority of the writer always overcomes the scepticism of the reader. If you know what you're talking about, or if you feel that you do, the reader will believe you...The authority of the writing will always overcome that. You can't hedge your bets.'

In this 2000 interview, Giovanni reflects on her long career as a poet and makes a bold prophecy about the incomparable role of books in our lives in the dawn of the digital age.

Image credit: Hulton Archive/Getty/Kate Martin/The Atlantic

Zadie Smith has 10 Rules

'Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.'

We know that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to writing, but in this 2010 article with The Guardian, Zadie Smith offers a fresh and cut-throat perspective to becoming a writer. There are no long-winded anecdotes, just 10 simple rules.

Illustration by Liz Riccardi