Category Archives: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison on (not) writing a memoir

From a recent interview on her latest book, God Help the Child. The entire interview is worth listening to.

Contemporary writing is very, very different from say 20 years ago. It’s very self-referential and very inward you know. It might be a consequence of creative writing classes where you’re told “write what you know.” And people know their lives and their friends and their family, so they write very self-referential texts. You know, I always force my students: immediately I say do not write what you know because you don’t know anything. I want you to write about someone you invent. So if you get to the point, say in 2010-2015, where you’re being asked to eliminate every other point of view except yours – when you write your novel, when you write your poems – nothing in the world impacts on you except your personal experience and the way in which you might be able to extrapolate that into something else – I mean it’s like that in the movies, everywhere. It’s really boring. I was asked by my publisher before I published this book to do a two-book contract and write a memoir and I said okay. And then I thought about it and I thought, “oh dear, I can’t do that.” First of all, it’s boring. I know all of that. I know every bit of it. So, there’s nothing new there. I want something new. [Laughs.] Not going to re-tell some old stories, uh! I would fall asleep in the act of it! Maybe someone else wants to go and do that. I cannot do that, you know.