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Writers@Work: Inspiration from Bestselling Author Tayari Jones

Writers@Work: Inspiration from Bestselling Author Tayari Jones

By Rochelle Melander


On Friday evening the writer Tayari Jones, author of the bestselling book, An American Marriage, spoke at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee. Her talk inspired me—and I wanted to share some of her wisdom with you.


Follow your path

The daughter of two professors, it was natural for Jones to pursue a PhD as well. But she left the program after earning her master’s degree in English, because she knew she wanted to be a writer. She said, “I was training to be a bird watcher when I knew I wanted to fly.” Well said!


Journal daily, write regularly

Jones journals daily, following the morning pages practice championed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. But she doesn’t believe that writers must write every day. On Twitter, she said: “The people who are out having important experiences often don’t have daily quiet time.” Instead, Jones recommends that writers aim to write regularly.


Pay attention: inspiration is everywhere

Tayari Jones had spent a year studying the criminal justice system at Harvard, but wasn’t sure how to use this information to make art. Then she traveled to Atlanta to visit her mother. At the mall, she overheard a couple arguing. That exchange sparked the idea for her novel. Where will you find your next idea?



Tayari Jones appears to be an overnight success. But An American Marriage is her fourth novel. After her first two novels, she had difficulty placing her third because of low sales. An American Marriage took six years to write. And yet she persisted. Her story reminds us that writing is a marathon, not a sprint.


Your turn

Who has inspired you lately? Please share your story in the comments.




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