Eavesdropping on the Harlem Writers Guild

“Well, in this group we remind each other that talent is not enough. You’ve got to work Write each sentence over and over again, until it seems you’ve used every combination possible, then write it again.”

Maya Angelou, The Hear of A Woman p.49

I listened in on a writers group that occurred before I even knew that I was interested in developing the art of capturing feelings and memories into words. And through this mystical art of time travel, I sat unnoticed by the entire guild, and heard John Killens say to Maya Angelou, “Well, in this group we remind each other that talent is not enough. You’ve got to work. Write each sentence over and over again, until it seems you’ve used every combination possible, then write it again.”

That was all I needed. I got what I had come for. I’ve been looking for a writers group that has attracted writers who had become acquainted with the rules of success through the Edison Method of Success: finding 10,000 ways that didn’t work without failing. Those are the writers I want to learn from. The ones who have worked and worked and tired and failed and know something about what it takes to be a good writer. I want to learn from the writers who writing didn’t come easy and naturally to them. I want to learn from the writers who had to struggle to become good at writing.

In my haste to force my words to rise off the pages, I often neglect the essential step of kneading my sentences. The following contains my unedited kneading of one specific sentence.


An email of a woman’s reasoning for leaving her incarcerated husband for another man. Phone calls from a estranged friend desperate to reconnect. Mother-in-laws craving acceptance of daughter-in-laws. All of these these situations that I’ve recently read or heard about have me thinking about the cancerous destroyer of relationships: the atrophying sense of self.

The mother-in-law who so desperately wants to be loved, bends over backwards to make everyone happy. She wants to feel needed. She wants to feel accepted. She wants to feel valued and important. And so she gives and gives and gives receivers unwanted gifts. The more she gives, the more they are repelled. They more they are repelled, the more she gives.

[This is the sentence I am writing over and over again, trying to capture the message in the most direct and clear and concise way as possible.]

Trying to keep everyone happy with you, limits your ability to make good judgment.

Trying to keep everyone happy with you, impedes your ability to make the best decision.

Trying to keep everyone happy with you, impedes your ability to make good decisions.

Attempts to win someone’s love and acceptance through self-indulgence giving, weakens relationships.

Attempts to win someone’s love and acceptance through self-indulgence giving, weakens relationships and deteriorates your self-respect.

Giving that is motivated to obtain love, acceptance, and value is selfish. The selfish offering of gifts erodes relationships.

The individual who is dependent on others love and acceptance in order to feel loved and valued, prevents themselves from ever feeling truly loved and accepted.

Desperate needs for love and acceptance that are

Cravings for love and acceptance that are satisfied through the vice of self-indulged giving, weakens ones ability to experience meaningful relationships.

Giving to manipulate someone so that they will love, respect, and value you gets in the way of you feeling loved, respected, and valued in the long term.

Giving to others to feel needed and important will cost you your self-respect.

Giving to others so that you can feel good about yourself is selfish giving.


May 25, 2020

Total Time Writing: 1 hour

Total Time Writing on this Blog: