Inspired by Maya Angelou

The Inspired Example of Maya Angelou

When I think of the courage to live a creative life, Maya Angelou comes to mind every time.

What I admire most about her was her Renaissance Soul. Multi-passionate, curious and talented, Maya Angelou disregarded the advice telling us to master Just One Thing in order to succeed. Her life disproved that old saw “Jack of All Trades…”.

(I suspect this saying began around the same time as assembly lines were invented.)

No one could accuse her of being a Master of None but she certainly had a varied career. She worked as a journalist in Ghana and Egypt and spoke eight languages. A talented jazz singer, she composed songs for the likes of Harry Belafonte. She was also known as a film and stage actor and danced in the opera “Porgy and Bess”. She worked with Dr. King for civil rights and was a professor of American Studies. She lectured to packed auditoriums, was a valued guest on talks shows and served as America’s Poet Laureate. Her list of awards is impressive. 

Lack of Focus?

When someone says ‘You need to get focused’ I point to Maya Angelou’s accomplishments and ask, “You mean like this, right?”

Don’t get me wrong. A laser focused approach to creativity (and life) works very well for some people. Mozart and his single-minded passion for music comes to mind. However, I’m not wired that way.  For me, doing one thing for the rest of my life would be like living the same year over and over.

I will admit though that, looking at Maya Angelou’s list of accomplishments, it’s hard not to feel like a slacker until I remember one important thing.

She didn’t do ALL those things ALL at the same time

I also be surprised if Ms. Angelou succeeded at everything she did. There are probably things not on this list where she learned what she needed and moved on. Even when she did succeed, we see her moving on as her interests and/or circumstances changed.

She learned, adjusted and tried again.

Her example encourages me to choose and take mindful action. Learn from the results. Adjust and try again. (That’s the formula for success right there, by the way.)

It takes practice

I’m sure she wrote many songs before Harry Belafonte decided to record one. Like the rest of us, she needed rehearsals in order to act, sing and dance. As a writer myself, I feel I can safely say a lot of her poetry ended up in the ‘circular file’.

Sometimes, we succeed spectacularly and at other times, it’s valuable learning that leads us to the next interesting thing. If we’re really lucky, we find passions that stick to us our whole lives. We may not see the pattern until we reach the end of our lives.

Today, looking back, Maya Angelou’s passion shows up as creative expression. That’s my passion, as well, which is why she inspires me so.

The gift of Maya Angelou’s life

Often coaching clients and peers tell me they feel guilty because they have so many interests. They worry that something is wrong with them and half-joke about being ADD. Behind their words is the fear they won’t achieve their dreams. I remind them of Maya Angelou’s career and many accomplishments. Her example gives us permission to be curious and live interesting, creative lives and a pattern to follow.

I tell them “It worked for her. Let’s see how to make it work for you.”

Who inspires you? Share in the comments and tell us why!


7 thoughts on “The Inspired Example of Maya Angelou”

  1. Aprille,
    I love that you listed Maya Angelou as your inspiration.

    I used to write poetry on a regular basis, then had some life and mental health issues, the treatment of which suppressed my desire and ability to write at all, much less creatively. I signed up for your challenge. Let’s see if we can get that pump primed.

    Btw, have you ever done anything specifically relating to art therapy?


    1. Hi Lillian. Thanks! I used to hold workshops using a therapeutic writing method that is powerful and affirming as well. Also a visual journal workshop for inner exploration. I moved to Nova Scotia about 6 months ago and am just getting back into the groove. Look forward to sharing more about the next Passion Project with you. Coming soon!

  2. Sheis an amazing woman!!! I do laugh at the idea of focussing and sharing her story. It is so impressive that she could accomplish so much. Great post.

  3. Maya Angelou is one of my most favorite of writers. I’ve read a lot of her books. They are full of passion and energy and life. She did a lot and, yes, I feel like a slacker. On the other hand, I need to focus on my own creativity instead of comparing myself to others. Definitely looking forward to the creativity passion project to explore my passion and creativity with other people.

    1. Hi Alice. Thanks for stopping by. It’s definitely her passion for life that I find so engaging. She was a force of nature right up until she left this planet. Will let you know more about the Passion Project soon! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  4. Your blog was great. Maya Angelou is my favorite poet. I love creativity and being in her presence inspires me so. Now that she is gone, being reminded of her today lifted my spirits. I only met her once but her humor, smile and positive energy I will never forget.

    1. You are so lucky. I never had the pleasure of meeting her or hearing her speak in person. I can only imagine the impact being in her presence would have had. Thank you for the kind words on the post!

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