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Friday Favorite: The Gift of Maya Angelou

Cover of book by Maya AngelouIt’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a new Author Note, and I offer an apology to my regular readers for that. I’ve actually been writing a lot in the last couple of months –– a project that had been idling for quite some time is back in full swing, and that’s occupied any time I’ve had at the keyboard. There’s also a tight deadline I’ll explain another day.

When I grabbed my MacBook Air last night I had initially intended to dive back in and get started on the next chapter, but I realized I needed to give my subconscious a little more time to do its work so that the words would be ready to come. In return, my subconscious reminded me there was an Author Note I’d been planning to write for close to two months now… which just happened to be perfect for a Friday Favorite:

I was at my desk when I read the Facebook post in late May saying Maya Angelou had died. I’d picked up her most recent book for my iPad just a few weeks before, as well as a new ebook compilation of all the memoirs that already sit on my shelf –– I wanted to re-read the earlier works after I’d read the new.

When I read the news I literally felt shivers all over my body. As I told Peter when I got home, they lasted so long I began to wonder if they were ever going to ease. All I could think was what an incredible voice we had lost. All I could think was how fortunate the world was to have had her voice at all.

I first became familiar with Angelou and her work when she read On the Pulse of the Morning at U.S. President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. I was in Chicago at the time, and was riveted in front of the TV when I should have been in a conference session.

The power of her words and her delivery was staggering. Listening to her was like listening to music that wasn’t music. Rhythmic. Intense. Rich. Authentic. Beautiful. And silence that demonstrated how the space between words serves to amplify their meaning… if you allow it.

Not long after watching that broadcast I purchased a small hardcover version of Pulse and kept it with me at my office so I could pick it up from time to time and read through. Over the next months and years, I acquired and read all the memoirs published to that point. Then, at an International Association of Business Communicators conference in Boston in the late 1990s, she was the closing keynote speaker. I was in the room when she held thousands of people spellbound with her story –– her years of silence, her beautiful grandmother, her years of dancing, and singing. And her words… words that would have left the world so much poorer, had she never uttered them. Words, like those in the favorite quotes and video below… that serve always to inspire me.

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
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When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness.
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You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
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The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.