Finding Your Own Voice: O’Keeffe On Writing


Here at Ghost Ranch, there’s a library that’s open 24/7, chock full of books on geology, Native American culture and traditions, poetry… and of course, all things O’Keeffe. I’m reading C.S. Merrill’s “O’Keeffe: Days in a Life,” a collection of poems written, with O’Keeffe’s permission, based on her experience of working for the artist as librarian, secretary, cook, nurse or companion, from 1973 to 1979, the last years of O’Keeffe’s life.

Here in number 77, Merrill describes an exchange about writing for a community.

Sunday morning O’Keeffe and I

discussed how to find your own voice,

your own vision.

I argued a painter can get off

alone and work in color 

but a writer must use words

which requires a community

of minds, you write to a community

of minds, I said.

She spoke harshly, very loudly,

“Do you think that

community of minds cares a moment

for what you have to say?

Of course they don’t!”

She answered herself.

She said I was writing

like others told me

said it was a very difficult

thing to listen to yourself

and write from that

said the key is free time.

Give yourself an hour or two a day.

all to yourself

everyone has free time

but they don’t use it

I said I have time when I am walking

to school — she said that wasn’t free

yes I was walking, but I was walking to

that wasn’t free time.

March, 1978

1 Comment

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One response to “Finding Your Own Voice: O’Keeffe On Writing

  1. ellen

    Interesting from several perspectives: that of creating, as well as what is free time. Make you think.

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