September 26, 2018

Toni Morrison on what motivated her to write her first novel


Being a good writer requires discipline, practice, and good reading habits. But even if a writer has these attributes, they’re useless without having the spark to write.

Who knew that The Bluest EyeToni Morrison’s debut novel, came out of a writing workshop that stipulated participants needed to bring new material? Morrison looks back: “There weren’t going to let me in unless I had something new, so I began a story that would be incorporated into the first novel I wrote…and then I just left it.”

What made Morrison return to it? “Later on, when I was in Syracuse preparing to move to New York,” she says, “I began to work that story in the evenings. I wasn’t just interested in the plot, I felt compelled at the time…this was in mid 60s when black men were using positive uplifting rhetoric such as ‘You are my black queen,’ and ‘Black is beautiful’…I thought that something was being skipped, that it wasn’t always beautiful, that no was going to remember how internecine racism used to be.”

Here more of the origins of The Bluest Eye and Morrison’s motivation to write it in the video below.

Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.