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On Writing…

Chloe Anthony Wofford ‘Toni‘ Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019) – the Nobel Laureate American Novelist, Essayist, Editor, Teacher, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, gave invaluable pieces of advice to aspiring authors in various lectures and interviews. Her main advice is fascinating: ‘Write what you want to read’! This is the basic of any form of art… artists want their creations to influence others, as well as to get noticed. The creators like to stay alone when they create something… in fact, an artist splits her/his own self into two entities, and then (s/he) creates and enjoys the creation! If the artist dislikes the creation, s/he recreates it!
Once, Toni said that she had penned down her first novel – The Bluest Eye (1970) – because she was “interested in talking about Black girlhood“. As no one had written a novel on this particular issue before her, she wrote about it herself. One of her practical suggestions is: It is inappropriate to read a story aloud without having finished the writing…’ because, when a reader reads a story, s/he would not hear anything. The author may like her/his own story because of the words used while writing, or the style of reading (if s/he reads them aloud). However, this process would not help the author read a reader’s feeling, as the reader will read some letters printed on papers!

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Another wonderful piece of advice of her is: ‘Don’t write what you know!’ Commenting on works of new generation writers, she said “it seems that everyone is writing about her/himself… their love, their lives… everyone else is a secondary character in their stories”! While interacting with her students on creative writing, Toni once said: “I don’t want to know about your parents, friends, and genuine love. Think of someone who is unfamiliar to you. Don’t write what you have already come through. Write about others… imagine… build. It’s important for an author to come out of her/his self.
Of course, Toni’s last advice was not for experienced authors, but for young talents… so that they could improve upon the power of imagination and writing style. However, her most important advice is: ‘Think something that is unfamiliar to you!’ This piece of advice will certainly surprise many of us. We usually believe that a person has every right to express her/his own views and it’s not possible for the person to know anything else happening in this world.

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Interestingly, Toni used to believe that the social life (or collective feeling) helps a person realise the essence of her/his absolutely personal experience in a better manner. Maybe trying to describe a stranger’s feeling can be a bit difficult… but, a good author can still win the heart of the readers through her/his writing style. Such an attempt also helps the author leave a signature mark in her/his creations… Well… it happened with Toni!

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