For my birthday last year, my mother gave me Letter To My Daughter by Maya Angelou.
I don’t know the last time I read a book so zealously. Maya Angelou was a woman of character, of resilience and of discipline. And, of course, her voice made me feel like one of her many daughters.
So, I wanted to learn more about my literary mother.
I learned that Maya Angelou’s process was one of suspended reality. Her office was a hotel room in her home town. She paid for it monthly, and the staff knew all her quirks.
No pictures on the walls. No fresh sheets. Just a few necessary doodads that help her when her calloused elbow begins to hurt and she needs to take a break.
“I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.”
She held this routine so staunchly that one day the staff slipped her a little note, begging her to let them change the sheets on her bed. She, of course, didn’t want to trouble them since she never slept in the bed. That, and she didn’t allow housekeeping in the room to make sure that even the smallest scrap of paper with her writing was not accidentally discarded.
“Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!”
She would write by hand on legal pads, sipping a single glass of sherry as she wrote. Eventually, she learned to tie her hair in headscarves. She found that after writing, her hair would be more than a little eccentric because she would wind her fingers through it while she scribbled.
Around two in the afternoon, she would return home and relax. By five, she would edit the days work. And by the time she passed away in May of last year, she had a presence that continues to surpass generations of people.