Toni Morrisson: Forget Writing About What You Know; Write About What You Don’t Know

On Decem­ber 12th, the New York Pub­lic Library host­ed a live pro­gram fea­tur­ing Pulitzer Prize-win­ning author Junot Díaz in con­ver­sa­tion with the writer who most deeply influ­enced his career, Toni Mor­ri­son, win­ner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture. The talk was orig­i­nal­ly streamed live on the web (includ­ing our site), and now you can watch a record­ed ver­sion below, plus some high­lights above. Intro­duc­tions by Paul Hold­en­gräber and friends begin at the 40:09 mark, and every­thing gets real­ly going at the 49:35 time­stamp in the video below. Despite some nerves, Díaz engages his now 82 year-old lit­er­ary idol in a con­ver­sa­tion that’s engag­ing, col­or­ful, some­times even amus­ing­ly off-col­or — like when he tells Mor­ri­son “you can out­write every motherf#cker on the plan­et sen­tence for sen­tence.” The inter­view touch­es on her for­ma­tive years as a writer and edi­tor, and then her years writ­ing her mas­ter­ful nov­els — Song of Solomon, Beloved and the rest. Com­men­tary on the craft of writ­ing is sprin­kled through­out. If you’d like to get Mor­rison’s writ­ing advice in a neat­ly-pack­aged for­mat, please see our pre­vi­ous posts: Toni Mor­ri­son Dis­pens­es Writ­ing Wis­dom in 1993 Paris Review Inter­view and Toni Mor­ri­son, Nora Ephron, and Dozens More Offer Advice in Free Cre­ative Writ­ing “Mas­ter Class”.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Writ­ing Tips by Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Sev­en Tips From F. Scott Fitzger­ald on How to Write Fic­tion

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.