WRITING IN HOTEL ROOMS WITH MAYA ANGELOU

I spend a lot of time writing in hotel rooms. In fact I am writing in one now.  My friends have always thought it was a bit odd, locking myself away like this, just to crank out some words.

Maya Angelou knew a thing or two about writing. She wrote in hotel rooms too, it turns out. So me and Maya, we are, like, you know, basically the same person. 

The vagueness and sterility of a good hotel room allows you to ignore the tedious meddlesome bothersome crap that fills your brain every day. In these beige cubes you can carve out the mental calm required to have an idea or two worth batting around. Those one or two ideas you work to squeeze out in these manufactured moments of contemplative peace aren't always going to be any good. They are most often going to suck. So you do it again. Find some more.

And then, when you do manage to get a good one, it just makes you feel like nothing else in the world. It's the best high you can imagine. 

Then of course you have to get it ready for the world; you have to express it somehow. But that's another story. 

Here's what Maya Angelou had to say about writing in hotels. 

"I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses.

I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner—proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning. Sometimes in hotels I’ll go into the room and there’ll be a note on the floor which says, Dear Miss Angelou, let us change the sheets. We think they are moldy. But I only allow them to come in and empty wastebaskets.

I insist that all things are taken off the walls. I don’t want anything in there. I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. Nothing holds me to anything. Nathaniel Hawthorne says, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” I try to pull the language in to such a sharpness that it jumps off the page. It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy.

Of course, there are those critics—New York critics as a rule—who say, Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer. Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing.

I work at the language."