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What James Baldwin Taught Me About Writing

July 12, 2022


What My Heroes Taught Me About Writing: James Baldwin

By Rochelle Melander


During the pandemic, my quiet home office became the household hub. My husband and college student children stopped by multiple times a day to check in. (When are you going to be on Zoom? What are we having for dinner?) I longed for a quiet space where I could be alone and think.


I was surprised to learn that James Baldwin struggled with similar issues. Baldwin spent much of his youth caring for his younger siblings. When he wrote in a corner of the apartment, the noise distracted him. When he wrote at a cafeteria, he felt guilty about not helping at home. A friend told him that if he kept this up, he’d be miserable (and resentful). Baldwin moved into an apartment and worked as a waiter to pay the bills. Being free from caring for children helped him be more creative.


Your turn

You don’t have to ditch your family and move out of your house to write. Schedule when and where you will write. Set boundaries with your family around that time. If you struggle with accountability, check in with a friend before and after your daily session.



James Baldwin




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